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China’s Material Girls: Get Religion, September 5, 2013 September 6, 2013

Posted by geoconger in China, Get Religion.
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Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me
I think they’re O.K.
If they don’t give me proper credit
I just walk away

They can beg and they can plead
But they can’t see the light, that’s right
‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cashIs always Mister Right, ’cause we are

Living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl

Material Girl (1984)

Madonna was not always the frightening figure she is today. Once upon a time she seemed to symbolize the enthusiasm and vitality of the 1980s — that golden age of conspicuous consumption, big hair, shoulder pads, Dallas,  and Thatcherism. An article in the Wednesday New York Times film section entitled “A Film-Fueled Culture Clash Over Values in China” brought those memories back (sans Margaret Thatcher), while also reminding me that I view the world through the lens of Christendom. What I assume to be vice can be celebrated as virtue by others.

The article reports that China is grappling with the consequences of the conspicuous consumption of its gilded youth — the vulgar ostentation of the children of the newly rich as captured in two light, but wildly popular films from director Guo Jingmin. The Times reports the films

have also made an impact beyond the box office. They have become a lightning rod for this nation’s evolving view of its growing youth culture. Many established Chinese cultural commentators are outraged by these works’ overt celebration of materialism, and this anger has spurred a surprisingly robust counterattack by the movies’ many young fans.

Just as Ian Fleming’s sex, sadism and snobbery spy thrillers of the 1950′s captured the imagination of England as it emerged from the grim post-war years, Guo’s books and films speak to the voracious appetite for luxury in post-Maoist China. Like Bret Easton Ellis’s Less than Zero (without the sex and drugs) Guo’s work chronicles the void — but he does not condemn, he celebrates. The Times article states:

His books are stuffed with English-language brand names like Chanel and Gucci and choice phrases. (“Economy class kills me!” and “I hate Beijing!”) His films show the actual designer goods and include dialogue that has also riled commentators, like this exchange in “Tiny Times 1” between two star-crossed young lovers:

“I like you,” the young man says, “not because you’ve had a driver since you were little, and not because you have designer bags, and definitely not because you gave me expensive boots. Even if you didn’t have a cent, I would still like you.”

The woman then turns on him: “Let me tell you, love without materialism is just a pile of sand!”

How far China has come. The “love without materialism” line could have been spoken just as easily a Red Guard in the 1960s as by a Shanghai sybarite today. Materialism — the philosophical basis for Marxist thought — has been construed to mean economic materialism — the desire for possessions. The article nicely notes the clash of ideologies between the two materialist cultures — between China’s rural past and its urban present — before returning to a discussion of the films place in the contemporary Chinese psyche.

Yes, I know I am taking a sledgehammer to a souffle when I critique The Times movie page for not getting religion, but is there not a third, or even fourth element at work in this “clash of values”?

A 2010 article in Jing Daily reported China was unsure of the virtues of conspicuous consumption.

While many newly wealthy Chinese are quick to outfit themselves head-to-toe in luxury brands or have themselves chauffeured around in limited-edition Bentleys, and the pursuit of wealth is largely considered a societal imperative and not entirely without merit, broader social attitudes toward the wealthy are decidedly mixed. Last year, a study by the Zhejiang Academy of Social Sciences found that 96% of respondents said they feel resentment toward the wealthy, and another survey conducted earlier this year by the People’s Daily found that 91% of respondents believe that the country’s nouveau riche has leveraged government connections to build their fortunes.

Is this entirely class based, or does China’s Confucius culture play a role in this clash of values? Or does its emphasis on the family above all over against the Maost ethic of self-denial.fuel conspicuous consumption?

Confucianism omitted out of the social relationships man’s social obligations toward the stranger. While theoretically care for one’s fellow man was provided for in the “doctrine of reciprocity” the relationship toward “others” was not one of the five cardinal relationships. The center of existence in the Confucian system was the family — and its prosperity was paramount.

The Hong Kong based psychologist, Michael Harris Bond, developed this theme in his book Beyond the Chinese Face:

The only principle that might guide behavior towards strangers is the Chinese ‘golden rule’ of Confucius, ‘Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.’ This counsel, however, is in the negative and prohibits harmful acts rather than promoting helpfulness. It is quite different in its consequences from doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. This Judeo-Christian dictum is another universal principle, but one that endorses an active reaching out to strangers. It finds its expression at the broader political level in constitutional safeguards for minority rights and a social welfare system; at the interpersonal level, in a greater willingness to assist the underdog. Such a principle operates less strongly in Chinese society.

But traditional Chinese culture also eschewed vulgar displays of wealth. Confucius’ doctrine of the Golden Rule promoted a humble, calm way of life that frowned upon self-publicity and personal ostentation.

What is being reported in this article? Are the Shanghai society girls the moral monsters of Less than Zero, or do they represent religious and cultural flux underway in China.  Or — am I assuming a Christian worldview that sees gluttony and self-aggrandizement as a sin which separates me from God and my fellow men.

Since the liberalizations of the early 1980’s one of the key challenges that Chinese individuals have faced is the question, “What is the meaning of life? For what purpose do I live?”  A century of warfare culminating in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) not only undermined traditional Confucian values but shook the rhetoric and ideology of revolutionary Maoism. The new emphasis on individual freedom, prosperity and happiness stands in sharp contrast to the Maoist vision of self-sacrifice, self-discipline and self-restraint.

And into this mix comes the burgeoning Christian church in China with its tens of millions of new converts. Where does this Judeo-Christian worldview come into play?

Perhaps this is a bit too much for a review of a review of frothy Chinese films, but it does permit me to speak to the biases I and almost all Western journalists bring to their reporting on the non-Christian world. Whether atheist, Christian, agnostic or Episcopalian — a Western reporter has been reared in Christendom (post-Christendom) where there are shared norms of good and evil. From time to time it is good to remind ourselves that the truths we assume to be universal are not always so.

First printed in Get Religion.

Tibet is burning: Get Religion, January 18, 2013 January 19, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Buddhism, China, Get Religion, Persecution, Politics.
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Let me commend for your reading this AP article by reporter Gillian Wong on the military crack down in Tibet. Entitled “As Tibet burns, China makes arrests, seizes TVs” this article reports on the wave of self-immolations that have swept across Tibet in protest to the Chinese regime’s occupation of the region.

It opens with a strong lede, provides the facts in a straight forward – balanced way, offers good comments from knowledgeable experts, provides the principle points of view — all while being written under a Beijing dateline (which means the reporter can find herself severely discommoded by the government for reporting unpalatable truths.)

The article opens:

Chinese authorities are responding to an intensified wave of Tibetan self-immolation protests against Chinese rule by clamping down even harder – criminalizing the suicides, arresting protesters’ friends and even confiscating thousands of satellite TV dishes.

The harsh measures provide an early indication that the country’s new leadership is not easing up on Tibet despite the burning protests and international condemnation.

For months, as Tibetans across western China doused themselves in gasoline and set themselves alight, authorities responded by sending in security forces to seal off areas and prevent information from getting out, but those efforts did not stop or slow the protests. The self-immolations even accelerated in November as China’s ruling Communist Party held a pivotal leadership transition.

There is a strong religious component to the story:

Nearly 100 Tibetan monks, nuns and lay people have set themselves on fire since 2009, calling for Beijing to allow greater religious freedom and the return from exile of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Speaking technically, (e.g., removing the subject of the story and looking at its construction, language and the reporter’s craft) this is a superior news story — it has all the elements of good journalism. And when you add in the compelling subject matter of religious freedom and political self-determination for Tibet you have a great story.

Where I to add anything to this story, it would be a paragraph or two on what the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan Buddhist tradition has to say about self-immolation. Buddhism holds that human life is sacred — how does suicide as political/religious protest stand in light of these teachings?

My sense is that a reporter writing from Beijing can only go so far down this path before they find their visa cancelled. One telephone call to a leader of the Tibetan exile community in a story might pass police muster — direct quotes or a response from the Dalai Lama would be too much. An informed reader should look at the dateline of an article — the location where the story was written often placed in parentheses at the beginning of an article — so as to understand how to read the story. A dateline of Beijing as opposed to Hong Kong or Tokyo for this story says very different things. Let the reader understand.

Informed Western readers of this article are likely to come to this story with the knowledge the Arab Spring began with the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia. Older readers will remember the self-immolation of Buddhist monks during the Vietnam war in protest to the South Vietnamese government’s policies. Is this the tradition in Tibet?

Not according to the Tibetan government in exile. They released a You-Tube video this past summer that looks into this question — noting the first Tibetan self-immolation took place in 2008.  The video received little news attention when it was released, and I do hope that it is picked up by the press now that the Chinese government has pushed this issue into the limelight with its crackdown.

What say you GR readers? Is an extra sentence or paragraph necessary to explain the religious “why” question behind this story? Or, given the threat of censorship from Chinese government that hovers over all Tibet or religion (think House Churches, Falun Gong) stories, is it incumbent upon the reader to approach these stories with a modicum of wisdom — knowing that he will only hear part of the story?

First printed in Get Religion.

China’s last Anglican bishop dead: The Church of England Newspaper, December 2, 2012 p 6. December 7, 2012

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Bishop K.H. Ting

The last Anglican bishop in China, Bishop Ting Kuang-hsun, has died.  The Amity Foundation reports that Bishop Ting died on 22 Nov 2012 in Nanjing. He was 98.

In 1955 Bishop K.H. Ting was consecrated as Bishop of Zhejiang of the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui, the Anglican Church in China. A controversial figure among Chinese Christians, Bishop Ting has been accused of being an apologist for the government in its persecution of the “House Church movement” and an agent of influence for the Maoist regime, but he is also credited with keeping the church alive during a period of severe persecution.

A disciple of process theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Bishop Ting sought to develop a Chinese Christian theology that harmonized with the country’s culture and political leadership during the Maoist era.  He came to reject the doctrine of Justification of Faith and promoted a Justification by Love theology.  The bishop rejected the notion that mankind were first to be considered sinners as a consequence of the Fall, but rather were as likely to be sinned against as to sin.

Educated at Shanghai’s Saint John’s University, Bishop Ting was ordained in 1942 in Shanghai and served with the YMCA in China but left in 1946 to work for the Student Christian Movement in Canada and the World Student Christian Federation. Returning to China in 1951 he served as General Manager of the Shanghai-based Chinese Christian Literature Society, and in 1953 became president of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary—a post he held until his retirement in 2010.

The last meeting of the Chinese House of Bishops and General Synod was held in Shanghai in 1956, and shortly thereafter the church was merged by the Communist government with China’s other protestant denominations to form the China Christian Council (CCC). Bishop Ting remained an Anglican bishop, but his church had been effectively dissolved.

Jailed during the Cultural Revolution, Bishop Ting returned to national prominence in the 1970’s in the wake of the liberalizations following Mao’s death and became chairman of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and later president emeritus of the CCC. Bishop Ting also served as vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and as a member of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

China’s last Anglican bishop dead at 98: Anglican Ink, November 23, 2012 November 24, 2012

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Archbishop Peter Akinola and Bishop K.H. Ting in 2010

The Amity Foundation Press reports the last Anglican bishop in China, the Rt. Rev. K.H. Ting, died on 22 Nov 2012 in Nanjing. Bishop Ting Kuang-hsun was 98.

For 57 years Bishop Ting served as president of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, stepping down in 2010, to become the honorary president of the China’s national Protestant seminary.

Educated at Shanghai’s Saint John’s University, Bishop Ting was ordained in 1942 in Shanghai and served with the YMCA in China. In 1946 he moved to Canada to serve as missions secretary of the Canadian Student Christian Movement. In 1948 he moved to Geneva to serve with the World Student Christian Federation, returning to China in 1951.

From1951-1953 he served as General Manager of the Shanghai-based Chinese Christian Literature Society, and in 1953 became president of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary. In 1955 was consecrated as Bishop of Zhejiang of the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui, the Anglican Church in China.

The last meeting of the Chinese House of Bishops and General Synod was held in Shanghai in 1956, and shortly thereafter the church was merged by the Communist government with China’s other protestant denominations to form the China Christian Council. Bishop Ting remained an Anglican bishop, but his church had been effectively dissolved.

Read it all at Anglican Ink.

Chinese Christian dissident freed from prison: The Church of England Newspaper, January 27, 2012 p 6. February 2, 2012

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Shi Enhao

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Chinese Christian leader sentenced to two years of “reeducation through labour” has been released early from detention, the China Aid Association (CAA) reports.

The jailing of Pastor Shi Enhao, deputy leader of the Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA), prompted an international outcry last year, and was part of a wider crackdown on evangelical Christians by the Chinese authorities.

On 4 March 4, 2011 Pastor Shi was arrested by officers of the Suqian Municipal Public Security Bureau.  During his interrogation he was beaten and ordered to recant his faith and cease his activities.  He was released from custody but on 31 May police raided Shi’s church in Suqian City in Eastern China during worship services.  They ordered the evangelical congregation to cease worship and confiscated the church’s musical instruments, choir robes, and bank accounts.  Shi and other church officials were detained, and on June 1 they searched his home, threatening his wife, Zhu Guangyun, and their four adult children, the CAA reported.

While other church leaders were released within a few days, police kept Shi in custody, first sentencing him to 12 days administrative custody.  On June 21 he was placed in criminal detention and charged with “illegal meetings and illegal organising of venues for religious meetings.”  Though no trial was held, Pastor Shi was ordered jailed for two years in a labour camp for reeducation by government officials.

Under Chinese law, Protestant churches are required to register with and be administered by the government’s Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM).  However, members of China’s House Church movement have refused to submit to the TSPM, accusing the agency of censoring sermons, controlling the appointment of ministers and propounding liberal theology.

On 20 January 2012, Pastor Shi was freed from prison, though the CAA reports that no explanation has been offered for his early release.

The émigré rights group said it welcomed the “early release of Pastor Shi Enhao” but also called upon authorities to “uphold the policy of freedom of religion” and release all Chinese citizens jailed for their faith.

Chinese church demolition condemned: The Church of England Newspaper, November 18, 2011 p 6. November 21, 2011

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The banner on the church building reads: “Return church property!

Return our church building! Religious discrimination! Destroying Century-Old Historical Landmark!” : Photo courtesy ChinaAid

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Real estate developers in league with local government officials have begun tearing down a 125-year old former Anglican mission church in China’s Shantung province.  However, the North China Mission church in Tai-an was designated a national historic landmark in 1994 and is currently an approved congregation of the Three Self Patriotic Movement [TSPM] – China’s official Protestant Church.

The battle in Tai-an is part of a larger struggle between developers and conservationists in China’s booming Eastern coastal provinces.  It also highlights the precarious state of China’s property laws as local governments seek to profit from the property boom at the expense of a Chinese Christians.

Built in 1886 by missionaries from the Church of England’s North China Mission society – an auxiliary of the SPG – the Tai-an mission church and school was confiscated from the Diocese of Shantung following the Communist seizure of power.  In the 1950’s the congregation was merged into the Three Self Patriotic Movement, but was closed during the Cultural Revolution and its buildings seized by the government.

In the wake of the Chinese government’s liberalizations of the early 1990’s towards Christianity, four buildings of the mission compound were designated historical landmarks and turned over to the TSPM.

ChinaAid reported that last year workmen began tearing down the outer wall of the compound.  However, on 16 Nov 2010 approximately 40 members of the congregation stated a sit in at the church, and halted demolition.

Last month demolition started again.  When elderly members of the church tried to stop the work, they were beaten by members of the work crew.  The physical attack on the members of the congregation has led to an appeal to the national government for help.

“We sincerely hope that the central government’s policy on religion can be carried out in reality, so as to win the trust of the people and bring a resolution to the Tai-an Church’s long-standing property dispute,” the appeal read.  “All the members of the Tai-an Church have full confidence in the God whom we believe and in his words.  Jesus said, ‘Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.’ …”

ChinaAid condemned the demolition saying it “demonstrates that it is not just house churches … that face government persecution.  Even the legitimate rights of government-approved churches that are part of the [TSPM] can be arbitrarily trampled.”

Confucian ethics and modern China: Get Religion Oct 21, 2011 October 21, 2011

Posted by geoconger in China, Get Religion, Popular Culture, Press criticism.
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The terrible story out of China of a toddler run over by a van as she wandered alone through a market has seen extensive news coverage. As two-year old Yue Yue lay in the street badly injured, a security camera recorded 18 people passing by before a woman stopped to help. There has been an outpouring of outrage on blogs and social media, some of it prompted by the passers-by making excuses for their behavior.

The incident has sparked a debate on China’s cultural and legal strictures and the state of Chinese society.  There have been some solid pieces about China’s moral malaise as well as examinations of high profile cases involving similar issues. A few thoughtful stories have also discussed the “by-stander effect”: a phenomena best known from the 1964 case of Kitty Genovese, whose murder in a crowded stretch of Kew Gardens became known as a metaphor for moral decay after no came to her aid.

The blog The Useless Tree offers one explanation:

The problem is, at base, the rampant materialism of contemporary Chinese society that has led some people, elderly included, to extort “good Samaritans.” Here is an infamous case:

This phenomenon essentially began Nov. 20, 2006, when Xu Shuolan, a 65-year-old woman, fell and broke her hip while attempting to board a bus in Nanjing. Peng Yu, a 26-year-old, was the first to help her. He gave her 200 reminbi and escorted her to the hospital, staying with her until her family arrived. In thanks, Xu sued Peng for 136,419  reminbi, or $18,000, claiming that he was the one who knocked her down.

In one of the best-known, most important Chinese judicial rulings of the last decade, a court decided that Peng owed Xu  45,000 reminbi, or $6,076. The court didn’t have any evidence that Peng committed the crime of which he was accused by Xu. But the court, controversially, used the “daily life experience to analyze things” standard and claimed that the aid Peng gave to Xu was sufficient evidence of guilt. It wasn’t, as many outraged Chinese at the time felt, a simple act of decency.

That court case has proved to be morally corrosive, creating an incentive for fraud.  The judge’s presumption, essentially, is that only a guilty person would “help” someone in trouble; aid is an indication of guilt.  Thus, if a fraudster can induce a person to come to his or her aid, there is a chance for a payoff.  Perverse, to say the least.

Yet in all of these discussions of ethics and morals, questions about the reluctance of the Chinese to play the Good Samaritan for Yue Yue, there has been no serious examination of the religious or philosophical issues at play (that I have seen). BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day did raise the issue of faith in the Yue Yue story. The Rev. Lucy Winket argued that “some blame communism” or “Confucian philosophy” for China’s moral void. However, the C of E cleric was otherwise agnostic about the faith issues. She did observe though that “indifference and callousness is part of the human condition” — could this be an an incipient Calvinism rearing its head? Alas no. I think it is more cliche than belief in the total depravity of mankind.

A commentator for Britain’s SkyNews thought her explanation a “cop-out.”

Some responsible voices point out there is a problem in China and it does truth no service by pretending otherwise. This is not to trade in crude racial stereotypes, they say, but to deal with the reality of China’s recent history.

For decades conscience was contracted out to the Communist state — it removed the ability of people to think and act for themselves.

I cannot prove it, but I think there would be less likelihood of such a dehumanising tragedy unfolding in a country where popular morality had been shaped by a monotheistic religion like Christianity, Islam or Judaism — where charity is embedded in the theology and, ultimately, the culture. Jesus equipped his followers with the Golden Rule — do as you would be done by. Mohammed encouraged alms giving — zakat — to the poor.

In China, in the gallop towards affluence and material plenty, there does not always seem much time for the poor. However, it is encouraging to see the scale of the response to the scandal of [Yue Yue]’s suffering — from the Chinese themselves. It is a terrible wake-up call.

The vast majority of stories about Yue Yue assume a Christian worldview — one where being a Good Samaritan is a moral good. China experts note that this does not give a true picture. This 2009 article states that Confucian culture does not value the Good Samaritan. It is a foreign concept. The China Hope Live blog cites My Country and My People by Lín Yutáng to explain the faith issues at play for a non-Chinese audience.

Confucianism omitted out of the social relationships man’s social obligations toward the stranger, and great and catastrophic was the omission. Samaritan virtue was unknown and practically discouraged. Theoretically, it was provided for in the “doctrine of reciprocity” … But this relationship toward “others” was not one of the five cardinal relationships, and not so clearly defined. … In the end, as it worked out, the family became a walled castle outside which everything is legitimate loot.
The Hong Kong based psychologist, Michael Harris Bond, develops this theme further in his book Beyond the Chinese Face:
The Hong Kong based psychologist, Michael Harris Bond, develops this theme further in his book Beyond the Chinese Face:

The only principle that might guide behavior towards strangers is the Chinese ‘golden rule’ of Confucius, ‘Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.’ This counsel, however, is in the negative and prohibits harmful acts rather than promoting helpfulness. It is quite different in its consequences from doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. This Judeo-Christian dictum is another universal principle, but one that endorses an active reaching out to strangers. It finds its expression at the broader political level in constitutional safeguards for minority rights and a social welfare system; at the interpersonal level, in a greater willingness to assist the underdog. Such a principle operates less strongly in Chinese society.

In reporting context is key. Omitting the moral, historical and religious context of the Yue Yue story paints a false picture of China. While it could be possible that those who passed Yue Yue in the street were moral monsters, it is more likely they are representative of the religious and cultural flux underway in China.  I would argue that this story needs to be seen against the backdrop of Chinese history.

Since the liberalizations of the early 1980’s one of the key challenges that Chinese individuals have faced is the question, “What is the meaning of life? For what purpose do I live?”  A century of warfare culminating in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) not only undermined traditional Confucian values but shook the rhetoric and ideology of revolutionary Maoism. The new emphasis on individual freedom, prosperity and happiness stands in sharp contrast to the Maoist vision of self-sacrifice, self-discipline and self-restraint. The question for the journalist is how to tell this story in proper context.

Regardless of all the talk of the secularization of the media and culture in Europe and America, we in the West still live in Christendom. By this I mean that a Western journalist can assume that his audience has a shared Judeo-Christian worldview on base moral matters. One of these is the Good Samaritan ethic.

Is such an ethic appropriate? Is it possible for a journalist to stand outside his culture? The Yue Yue story illustrates this dilemma. Were the 18 bystanders moral monsters, or were they acting according to a different faith code? Should the Judeo-Christian worldview be the prism through which this story is told to the world? Is there a single moral good or truth? Is the enlightenment project — is reason — dead?

What say you GetReligion readers?

First published by GetReligion.

China opening for Global South primates: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 30, 2011 p 7. October 1, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Primates of the Global South coalition of provinces have opened ecumenical relations with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) — China’s official state Protestant Church.

The 12-day visit to China by 11 senior archbishops led by Singapore’s Archbishop John Chew — who represent a majority of the communion’s members — has sparked public controversy in evangelical circles with some conservatives perturbed by the outreach to the Communist Party-approved state church.

The visit will also pain supporters of the current institutional structures of the Anglican Communion, as the China trip marks the establishment of an international Anglican ecumenical movement independent of the London-based instruments of communion.

From 30 August-10 September the Primates of South East Asia, Myanmar, Uganda, Jerusalem and the Middle East, West Africa, Burundi, Nigeria, the Southern Cone, Kenya, Rwanda and Central Africa visited Peking, Chunking, Nanking, Shanghai and Soochow as guests of the Chinese government’s Minister for the Stated Administration of Religious Affairs, Mr Wang Zuoan.

The primates also met with leaders of the TSPM and China Christian Council. “This visit is opening the way for greater cooperation between China and the countries we represent, especially in the areas of church development, social services and commercial activity,” the primates said in a statement released at the end of their visit.

The China communiqué stated the Global South primates were “excited by the invitation by the Church in China, with the support and encouragement of SARA, to develop a long-term relationship with the Global South of the Anglican Communion for mutual encouragement and sharing of experiences.”

They also noted China’s “advances in economic growth and social development” over the past 30 years “including the recognition and encouragement given to the church and other religious organizations.”

The primates said they were “inspired by the exponential growth of the Church in China, in spite of the challenges she faces. We are encouraged to see a Church that is actively leading people to faith in Christ, training lay leaders for ministry, advancing the theological education of catechists and clergy, and being a blessing to society, especially in providing social services to the needy.”

They noted the success of the Amity Printing Press, which has produced over 90 million Bibles and the work of the Amity Foundation in providing social services to the needy. “These achievements affirm the church’s faithfulness in doing God’s work in a manner that is self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating. In all this, we recognize God’s divine providence, grace and wisdom,” they said.

However, the communiqué made no mention of China’s house church movement, home to the overwhelming majority of Chinese believers, nor of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement’s complicity in the state’s persecution of Christians.

Conservative bloggers were quick to denounce this oversight with posters at the website StandFirm expressing outrage the Global South would align itself with the TSPM. However, the Rev Loren Fox, a former missionary in Singapore told The Church of England Newspaper, these criticisms were misplaced.

Fr Fox noted the experience of the Diocese of Singapore and Archbishop John Chew had coloured its outlook on the Chinese church. The diocese of Singapore had been “generally liberal through the 1960s, but with Bishop Chew Ban it saw a movement sweep the Church through the influence of the Charismatics.”

During the Second World War the leaders of the Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Anglican churches “were imprisoned together by the Japanese,” he noted. In their prison camps “they prayed together deeply. That unity laid the groundwork for the Charismatic outbreak across the island in the 1970s that still influences all branches of the Church there today. Thus, the Singaporean Church has seen a weak (liberal) church transformed from within.

“Likewise, the TSPM/CCC has also moved from biblical faith to a faith filtered and truncated by the Communists, which has now returned to a biblical faith,” he said. Singapore and the Global South primates want “to encourage a further transformation of the Church — both government-sponsored and independent/house churches. Their own history gives them reason to believe it is already happening and will continue to do so.”

He added that Chinese history had seen “regime changes” brought about by changes in religion. “The Communist Party is afraid of any change in religion — whether it is Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhism, Uighur Islam, or Christianity.”

The Global South knows this and “has been helping the Communist Party’s Religious Affairs Bureau to see how biblical Christianity makes for good citizens,” Fr Fox said.

China in danger from evangelism, Communist Party adviser warns: The Church of England Newspaper, Sep 2, 2011 p 6. September 2, 2011

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The “abnormal” spread of Christianity across China is a threat to the Communist Party rule and social stability, a paper prepared by a top party academic warns.

Ma Hucheng, an adviser on religion to the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party, warns that the government’s attempt to control Church growth through the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) — the state sanctioned Protestant church — is failing.

“If we are unable to hold the line here, this will damage our independent foreign policy and cause the government to lose control of religion in accordance with the law, and make Christianity once again a political and spiritual tool of control for the West, and make Christianity [in China] a pawn of the Western church,” Ma said, according to a translation of his paper, An Analysis of the Reasons for Rapid Growth of the Protestant Church in Today’s China, prepared by OMF International’s Director of China Research, Tony Lambert.

Since the Chinese government inaugurated an “open-door” policy towards Christianity in 1979, the official number of Christians has grown from 3 million to 23 million under the oversight of the TSPM. However, Christians outside the control of the TSPM are growing at the rate of a million a year to “become the first and largest religion in China,” states the article, which appeared in translation in OMF’s China Insight.

Party researchers disagree on the numbers of Protestants, but concur the church is growing rapidly. “We estimate the number of Protestants to be around 40 million on average, so with one million converts annually over the last 30 years, in another 20 years we give a conservative figure of about 60 million, but after 50 years conservatively there will be 100 million Protestant Christians,” Ma said.

However, this figure is the most conservative estimate, he noted. “As there is the tradition in Christianity of ‘everyone can be an evangelist’, as the number of believers multiplies so does the number of evangelists, so even more people become believers. So a moderate estimate is that, in 50 years time, the number of Christians will be 150-200 million,” Ma predicted.

Other researchers, he noted, estimate “that in just the next 20 years there will be 200 million and even 300 million Christians” in China, he said, citing the model of South Korea where the church in the last 40 years grew to comprise 35 per cent of the population and “the largest religion there.”

The reasons for growth were varied, Ma said. Government policy since 1979 had “created a favourable and broad external environment for the growth of Christianity,” he observed, coupled with the social acceptance of religious faith. “Religion was no longer regarded as backward and to be rejected. Believers no longer were regarded as dissidents to be attacked and in need of political re-education.”

While religion was now legal, local governments failed to “effectively and promptly” prohibit “illegal Christian evangelism,” Ma wrote, “hence, Christianity grew too fast and out of control.”

Foreign influence had also led to church growth, he argued. “Some nations have even made it part of their national strategy to evangelize China, planning to impose on China their views on human rights and cultural values, based on Christianity.”

The implications for China’s “national security” were clear, Ma warned. “Western powers, with America at their head, deliberately export Christianity to China and carry out all kinds of illegal evangelistic activities. Their basic aim is to use Christianity to change the character of the regime in power in China and to overturn it.”

There was, he noted, a “battle to gain the very soul of China,” which Christians must not be allowed to win.

“The present rapid grown of Christianity destroys the religious balance and is a negative influence on the State and society and Christianity itself. Thus, we must formulate a strategic plan and take comprehensive action to resolve the problem,” Ma concluded.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Chinese Protestant leader jailed for two years by govt order: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 26, 2011 August 29, 2011

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Shi Enhao

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Chinese Christian leader has been ordered jailed by the police for two years of “reeducation through labour,” the China Aid Association (CAA) reports.

The jailing of Pastor Shi Enhao, deputy leader of the Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA), comes amidst a growing government crackdown on China’s rapidly growing Christian community.

On May 31, police raided Shi’s church in Suqian City, in Eastern China.  The police ordered the evangelical congregation to cease worship and confiscated the church’s musical instruments, choir robes, and bank accounts.  Shi and other church officials were detained, and on June 1 they searched his home, threatening his wife, Zhu Guangyun, and their four adult children, the CAA reported.

While other church leaders were released within a few days, police kept Shi in custody, first sentencing him to 12 days administrative custody.  On June 21 he was placed in criminal detention and charged with “illegal meetings and illegal organising of venues for religious meetings.”  No trial was held and Pastor Shi was jailed by administrative order.

Under Chinese law, Protestant churches are required to register with and be administered by the government’s Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM).  However, members of China’s House Church movement have refused to submit to the TSPM, accusing the agency of censoring sermons, controlling the appointment of ministers and propounding liberal theology.

Chinese Church leaders conclude African tour in Cape Town: The Church of England Newspaper, June 3, 2011 p 9. June 6, 2011

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Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and Wang Zuo'an in Cape Town

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Cape Town has played host to a delegation from China’s Ministry of State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) on a four day visit to South Africa.

The head of SARA, Mr. Wang Zuo’an, accompanied by a ten member delegation from China and Archbishop John Chew of Singapore, met with Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and other church and state leaders in Cape Town and Johannesburg from May 20-24.

The purpose of the meeting was “two fold” Archbishop Makgoba explained: “to reflect on models of church and the role of the church within local communities; as well as the church’s relationship with the state and how that is conducted.”

The South African visit by the Chinese delegation follows upon their meeting with the leader of the Gafcon movement in Nairobi on May 14, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, and is the final leg of their tour through Africa organized by the Global South coalition of Anglican provinces.  It also coincides with the larger Chinese diplomatic offensive underway in Africa to foster relations with the continent’s political and religious leaders.

At the close of the South African meeting, Mr. Wang stated that “China is going through massive change and we are keen to learn from our friends in South Africa where you have experienced amazing changes yourselves. We are looking for good role-models.”

The delegation met with government leaders in Johannesburg to discuss church-state relations and toured Soweto.  In Cape Town the delegation attended the May 22 installation of the Very Rev Michael Weeder as Rector of the Cathedral Parish of St George the Martyr, met with Cabinet Minister Trevor Manual, visited an HIV/AIDs clinic and a number of local ministries, and concluded with a tour of the Bible Society of South Africa, which now prints 90 per cent of its bibles in China.

Archbishop John Chew of Singapore said “enormous changes have already taken place in China. We have been building a relationship with the Chinese state for about twenty years and are seeing the fruit thereof. A few years ago they permitted the establishment of a printing press in Nanjing. The press has already printed about 53 million bibles in Chinese languages.”

Church leaders defend China’s record on religious rights: The Church of England Newspaper, May 27, 2011 p 8. May 28, 2011

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Wang Zuo'an, Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs in China

The China Christian Council has challenged the conclusions of a US government report that found the Communist regime in Peking engaged in “ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom” against its citizens.

These “irresponsible remarks” were “strongly subjective, full of prejudices and not true to reality” said the leaders of the country’s state sponsored Protestant Church—the China Christian Council/Three-Self Patriotic Movement (CCC/TSPM)—in a statement joined by representatives of the other state sponsored religious groups: Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims and Catholics.

The US critique of the lack of religious freedom comes at a fluid moment in China.  While émigré groups report heightened government pressure on congregations and arrests of religious leaders, the CCC/TSPM has also been strengthening ties with Christian groups in countries that are of growing international interest to the Chinese state.

On May 13, the government minister for the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), Mr. Wang Zuo’an, met in Nairobi with the leader of the Gafcon movement, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala.  According to a statement released by the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Chinese delegation met with the Gafcon leader to learn about the relationship between church and state in Kenya and to forge links with the Global South coalition in the Anglican Communion.

In its April 28 report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) attacked China, saying it found violations of religious freedom in the country.

“Unregistered religious groups or those deemed by the Chinese government to threaten national security or social harmony continue to face severe restrictions,” the USCIRF report stated.

“Religious freedom conditions for Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims remain particularly acute,” while “over five hundred unregistered Protestants” have been jailed in the past year, and there have been “stepped up efforts to destroy churches and close illegal meeting points.”

“Falun Gong adherents continue to be targeted by extralegal security forces and tortured and mistreated in detention. The Chinese government also continues to harass, detain, intimidate, disbar, and forcibly disappear attorneys who defend the Falun Gong, Tibetans, Uighurs, and unregistered Protestants,” the report found.

However, the state church leaders said “what has been described about China in the report is entirely different from what we have observed and experienced.”

“China is a country under the rule of law and its citizens fully enjoy the freedom of religious beliefs. The development of various religions in China is now better than ever,” the CCC said, adding that “religious people in China have not been suppressed nor been restricted from normal religious activities.”

While it was true the government had taken action in some cases, there were “evil cults that are against society and humanity are a desecration to religion. Separatist activities under the disguise of religions have nothing to do with religious freedom,” it said.

“The Chinese government has dealt with evil cults and cracked down on separatist forces according to law, and such actions are in line with the aspiration of the Chinese religious community,” the state church leaders said, justifying the government’s crackdown.

However, the CCC and other state religious groups said they would be “willing to conduct further exchanges on issues of common concern with people from the religious community in the United States on the basis of equality, friendship and mutual respect.”

In his trip to Nairobi, Mr. Wang told reporters that while “Christianity was treated as a foreign religion” in the past, now “we treat it as ours.”

China to “guide” Christians into state church: The Church of England Newspaper Feb 4, 2011 p 6. February 5, 2011

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Bishop David Urquhart of Birmingham and Elder Fu Xiawe

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Chinese government has announced plans to “guide” Protestant Christians worshiping at unregistered “house churches” towards worshiping in the state approved China Christian Council/Three Self Patriotic Movement.

In its agenda for the coming year published on Jan 24, China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) said bringing all Protestants into the fold of the CCC/TSPM would help the activities of Protestant churches proceed in a normal and orderly way. However, details of how this guiding would take place have not been revealed, the Peking-based People’s Daily reported.

SARA stated it would also work to “educate” China’s Catholics on the principle of self-governance in church affairs, “guiding” Catholic churches in China to independently select and consecrate bishops, rather than defer to the Vatican.

The agenda said the SARA will strengthen regulation of foreign nationals’ group religious activities in China and resist foreign infiltration under the pretext of religion.

The number of Christians in China is unknown.  Official statistics published by SARA in 2006 reported 10 million Protestants and 4 million Catholics in China.  The numbers were revised last year following a survey by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) which gave the total of Protestant Christians as 23.05 million.  The government survey reported that 70 per cent of Protestant Christians worshiped in “registered churches” of the CCC/TSPM while 30 per cent worshiped in “house churches.

However, in a 2007 briefing for Community Party cadres, SARA director Yie Xiaowen reported there were 110 million Protestants and 20 million Catholics in China at the close of 2006. In 1949 there were an estimated 750,000 Chinese Protestants, many of whom subsequently fled to Taiwan and Hong Kong following the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces.

According to China Aid, a Texas-based human rights group, the number of Christians in China has increased 100-fold since 1949. Current estimates range from 80 million to 130 million active members.

Bringing China’s Christians under state control has been a priority for the government and a number of Catholic bishops and Protestant pastors have been jailed by the government for failing to register with the state.  While religious freedom is guaranteed by China’s state constitution, religious activities may be conducted only at registered religious sites such as Buddhist monasteries, Taoist temples, mosques and churches.

Anglican groups have worked to strengthen formal ties with the official CCC/TSPM as well as encourage the burgeoning house church movement.  In December the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt. Rev. David Urquhart paid an official call on Elder Fu Xianwei, Chairman of the National Committee of the TSPM.  Elder Fu “extended his gratitude to The Church of England for supporting the Chinese Protestant Churches for so many years, meanwhile, also conveyed the greetings to the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of CCC/TSPM,” a Chinese press statement reported.

The Rev Gao Feng, President of the CCC said China welcomed future visits from the Archbishop of Canterbury that would “deepen the friendship” and further “cooperation through mutual communication” between the Church of England and the Chinese state church.

In October, the bishops of the Anglican Church of Korea traveled to Peking to meet with the leaders of the TSPM/CCC and on Dec 27 members of the faculty of Trinity Theological Seminary in Singapore met with the TSPM/CCC leadership to discuss questions of common interest and concern.

Cyber attack on religious freedom watchdog blamed on China: The Church of England Newspaper, Dec 10, 2010 p 6. December 11, 2010

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Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The website of the ChinaAid Association has been crippled by repeated cyber attacks, the American-based organization that monitors religious persecution in China  has reported.

On Nov 30 a distributed denial of service attack was launched against the group’s Chinese-language website www.chinaaid.net followed by an attack on its www.monitorchina.org website, which provides Chinese and English reports on state persecution of religious groups.

Tracy Oliver, ChinaAid’s media coordinator told The Church of England Newspaper that it was impossible to say with certainty who was behind the attacks, but the organization suspected the Chinese government’s hand in the attacks.

On Dec 7, Ms. Oliver said the attacks were “on-going.”  They “keep attacking the IP address” apparently in the hope that we will shut down or move the site, she said.

We “know the Chinese government has the capacity” to mount such a sustained and sophisticated attack, she added, noting that it was the “Chinese website that was attacked first.”

ChinaAid “has been unrelenting in reporting on the increased official persecution directed at religious believers, particularly house church Christians, that has been part of a wider government crackdown on dissent since the announcement in early October that the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize was imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo,” the organization said.

A distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) occurs when multiple systems flood the bandwidth or resources of a targeted computer system or website.  Unlike a denial of service (DoS) attack, a DDoS attack used multiple computer hosts to launch simultaneously attacks on a site.

According to US State Department documents released last week by Wikileaks, the US embassy in Beijing reported that China’s Politburo was being a 2009 DDoS attack on Google.

“The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into American government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said,” the New York Times reported on Nov28.

Security Week reports that WikiLeaks was under a mass DDoS distributed denial of service attack on Nov 28, as it was set to release classified State Department documents.

Founded in 2002, ChinaAid states that its mission is to “draw international attention to China’s gross human rights violations against house church Christians.”

China opens to the Global South: The Church of England Newspaper, June 4, 2010 June 9, 2010

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Elder Fu Xianwei

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) has opened relations with the Global South and declared a willingness to learn and share experiences with the growing Churches of the Anglican Communion.

While China’s state Protestant Church, the TSPM and the China Christian Council, will continue to forge ties with the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the areas of theological education, the leader of the TSPM has indicated his Church would like to pursue deeper ties with Asian and African Anglicans, with whom they share common cultural and moral values, as well as the problem of dealing with rapid church growth.

Cut off from missionary support by the Chinese Revolution, since 1949 the Church in China has grown rapidly and is believed to number over 100 million members in the official state Protestant and Catholic Churches as well as in the underground Catholic Church and in the Protestant House Church movement.

“I hope that the Chinese Church and the Anglican Global South can expand their cooperation,” said Elder Fu Xianwei, the general secretary of the national committee of the TSPM in an address to participants at the Fourth Global South to South Encounter in Singapore on April 22, and said the Church in China was ready to learn from their experiences.

The Church in China has been a topic of special interest for the Archbishop of Canterbury, who visited China in 2006 as a guest of the TSPM. The Rt Rev David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, told The Church of England Newspaper that he was “delighted that Elder Fu” was able to attend the Singapore gathering.

As Dr Williams’ point man for China he said he had witnessed a “developing friendship, dialogue and exchange of mutual concerns as the Church in China grows.” Chinese and British scholars have held two seminars at Lambeth Palace, he noted and a third is scheduled for 2011.

In an interview with AnglicanTV at the close of the conference, Elder Fu indicated the Chinese Church was moving away from its government-imposed isolation and seeking partners in mission.

He told AnglicanTV he attended the South to South conference becauseArchbishop John Chew told me that there were many Archbishops from African Churches coming here. I thought it was a good opportunity for me to share with the African bishops about our church ministries and how we run our Church.”

“Also, I want to learn something from the church leaders who attended this conference, through their good experience and good witness from spreading the gospel,” he said, adding that Africa and China were facing “similar issues, problems and challenges. We need to sit down to dialogue with each other to resolve these issues,” Elder Fu said.

The challenges of globalisation and urbanisation faced by the Global South Churches were live issues in China, he said. He came to Singapore “to get some useful and helpful message for me so that I can run the Chinese Church well. At the same time I would like the Archbishops and Bishops of Global South to gain awareness and to understand the situation of the Chinese Church.”

The move away from an Anglo-centric communion sought by the Global South leaders was also attractive to the Chinese Church. “Authority for the Chinese Church should be in the hands of the Chinese Christians and the Three – Self Principle is good for the development and growth of the Chinese Church. I have learnt from the African leaders the need for self-support and self-reliance,” he said.

“In the Bible, we can see that whenever Paul planted a church, he let the church be run by local elders, allowing them to be independent. From history we learn the lesson that only the local Christians can run a local church that is sustainable.”

The Church in China can help the Global South by “sharing how we run our Church, as we run it well. We can also share on how we do evangelism, and how we attract more and more people in China to come and hear the Gospel. This can be the contribution of the Chinese Church to the Church as a whole,” Elder Fu said.

The last bishop in China to retire: The Church of England Newspaper, May 21, 2010 p 8. May 26, 2010

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Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Bishop KH Ting

The last Anglican bishop in China, the Rt. Rev. K.H. Ting, has stepped down as president of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, and at age 95, has retired from active church service.

At its March meeting the board of trustees accepted Bishop Ting’s resignation, and named him honorary president of the China’s national Protestant seminary.

Established in 1952 by the Chinese Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the seminary has had a single president during its 57 year history. The Rev. Gao Feng, President of the China Christian Council (CCC) has been named the institution’s new president.

Bishop Ting Kuang-hsun is the chairman emeritus of the TSPM and president emeritus of the CCC—the state backed organizations that oversee the Protestant Church in China. Bishop Ting continues to serve as vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and as a member of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature.

Educated at Shanghai’s Saint John’s University, Bishop Ting was ordained in 1942 in Shanghai and served with the YMCA in China. In 1946 he moved to Canada to serve as missions secretary of the Canadian Student Christian Movement. In 1948 he moved to Geneva to serve with the World Student Christian Federation, returning to China in 1951.

From1951-1953 he served as General Manager of the Shanghai-based Chinese Christian Literature Society, and in 1953 became president of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary. In 1955 was consecrated as Bishop of Zhejiang of the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui, the Anglican Church in China.

The last meeting of the Chinese House of Bishops and General Synod was held in Shanghai in 1956, and shortly thereafter the church was merged by the Communist government with China’s other protestant denominations to form the China Christian Council. Bishop Ting remained an Anglican bishop, but his church had been effectively dissolved.

Jailed during the Cultural Revolution, Bishop Ting returned to national prominence in the 1970’s in the wake of the liberalizations following Mao’s death. A controversial figure among Chinese Christians, Bishop Ting has been accused of being an apologist for the government in its persecution of the “House Church movement”, but is also credited with keeping the church alive during a period of severe persecution.

A statement released by the seminary through the Amity Foundation stated that at in “light of Bishop K. H. Ting’s advanced years, his own repeated requests and the wishes of his family, the Board accepted his resignation as president of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, a position he has held since the Seminary’s founding in 1952. High tribute was paid to Bishop Ting for his devoted service to theological education in China, and he was requested to serve as honorary president of the seminary.”

New crackdown on Chinese Christians ahead of summer olympics: CEN 6.20.08 p 6. June 24, 2008

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The Chinese government has intensified its crackdown in Christians in the run up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

On June 10, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and the China Aid Association (CAA)-a Chinese Christian émigré organization released a report entitled “China: Persecution of Protestant Christians in the Approach to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games” documenting persecution of Christians.

The report found that Ministry of Public Security had instituted a campaign of repression on Christian “house churches”—church’s not registered with the state approved China Christian Council. Police had also directed Beijing landlords not to rent properties to suspected Christian activists and instituted control orders banning those suspected of illegal religious activities from attending or participating in the Games.

In conjunction with the Beijing Olympics security blitz, the 12 page report documents an increase in government anti-Christian activities—including the largest expulsion of foreign Christian missionaries since the 1950′s, the use of sedition laws against Christians in China’s far western provinces, and the largest mass arrests of underground church leaders in 25 years.

The report stated the Chinese government was also using slave labour to prepare for the Olympics. Beijing house church leader the Rev. Cai Zhuohua, who was released in September 2007 after serving three years imprisonment for “illegal business practices” for production of Christian literature, was forced to work ten to twelve hours a day making soccer balls for the 2008 Beijing Olympics while in custody, CSW/CAA said.

Mervyn Thomas, CSW’s Chief Executive, said: “As we mark the two month countdown to the Beijing Olympics today it is truly disturbing to report the deteriorating picture for China’s unregistered Christians. As China takes her place in the spotlight for the Olympic Games it is important to highlight that she must play by international rules, including her binding international obligations on human rights.”

Political storm over Dalai Lama’s Lambeth invitation: CEN 5.23.08 p 4. May 22, 2008

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THE GOVERNMENT’S decision to receive the Dalai Lama at Lambeth Palace rather than at 10 Downing Street has spawned protest from Tibet activists and criticism the government is appeasing China.

The exiled spiritual and political leader of Tibet began an 11-day tour of Britain on May 20, but will only meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown on May 23 at a reception at Lambeth Palace, prompting shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague to tell The Times that Gordon Brown “should be prepared to meet all leaders in Downing Street.”

Former Liberal-Democratic leader Sir Menzies Campbell also noted there was “no reason” why the Prime Minister should not see the Dalai Lama “at No 10.” The “suspicion must be that he is responding to the Chinese Government,” he said.

Controversies over Western governmental cowardice in the face of aggressive Chinese lobbying have followed the Dalai Lama as he toured Europe this month. His May 19 meeting in Berlin with German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul prompted a war of words within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet between those keen on pursuing cordial relations with Peking, and those supportive of the Dalai Lama’s calls for democracy and freedom in
Tibet.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier declined to meet with the Dalai Lama and criticized his cabinet colleague’s actions. A government memorandum leaked to the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that China’s foreign minister warned that his country’s good relations with Germany could be jeopardized “through reckless actions.”

Chinese embassy spokesman Junhui Zhang told German broadcaster ARD his government was “absolutely against” any meeting between the Dalai Lama and European government leaders.

Meeting the Dalia Lama at a reception where he is the guest of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and not the Dalai Lama’s host, will insulate the government from China’s official wrath, analysts note, as the meeting will be between spiritual leaders rather than political leaders.

Anne Holmes, Acting Director of Free Tibet Campaign urged the government to reconsider its decision. “By meeting the Dalai Lama at Lambeth Palace Brown has signalled his determination to appease the Chinese government,” she argued.

“The overwhelming message from Tibetans during recent protests inside Tibet was for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, showing that he is still considered the legitimate voice of the Tibetan people and that he holds the key to a lasting negotiated settlement,” she said.

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams declined to comment on the circumstances leading to the Dalai Lama’s invitation to Lambeth, but noted that several British
religious leaders had been invited to the reception.

Church growth in China puts strain on unity: CEN 5.16.08 p 6. May 17, 2008

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Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

The rapid growth of Christianity in China is straining the unity of the state sponsored Chinese Protestant Church, church officials report, as the relaxation of government control has witnessed a return of denominational identity and theological speculation.

Elder Fu Xuanwei, the chairman of the Three Self Patriotic Movement [TSPM]—the state sanctioned body organization that with the China Christian Council [CCC] oversees the Protestant Church in China—told the Amity Press that China’s new freedoms had been both “good and bad” for the church. Freed from the survival mode that placed a premium on cooperation among Christian groups in the face of government antagonism, China’s new openness towards religion had reawakened dormant theological and denominational divisions that had been masked by the conformity of church structures established during the Maoist era.

The Communist government’s former overt hostility to Christianity has evolved in recent years, with the government now calling upon the church to work with the state in promoting social harmony. In March the number four man in the Chinese Politburo Jia Qinglin told a government congress the state “should guide religious leaders and believers to improve their lives, and make full use of their positive role in promoting social harmony.” The CCC/TSPM had responded to the government’s call by increasing its social and charitable work.

However, the rise of the Chinese House Church movement, home to an estimated 100 million “unofficial” Christians was clouding the church’s relationships with the state and tearing the CCC/TSPM’s unity. Attempts to develop a common church order and liturgy were also imperiled by the “many Christian sects that dot the Chinese countryside, exerting an unwelcome influence on some grassroots believers,” the CCC said.

“Our responsibility is to properly nurture our grassroots believers,” Fu said, adding that theological education had not kept pace with the church’s rapid growth and “many grassroots leaders are not trained. Our society has undergone opening and reform resulting in changed perspectives and attitudes among people — which is both good and bad,” he said.

He noted that some theological and ethical issues which were no longer considered problematic in some countries were still regarded as controversial in China. “Some theologians may say that other faiths have their own integrity but this may not be well accepted by some grassroots believers in China,” he noted. “Our challenge,” Fu said “is how to provide leadership for a church that has grown so much. Some old ideas and attitudes in the church may no longer be in keeping with the needs of the times.”

At its 8th national congress in January, the CCC/TSPM began work on a common theological covenant. However, the church in China was not uniform and the official post-denominational church was facing denominational strains that were stressing its fragile unity, Fu said. “We still respect the different church traditions whether they are Anglican, Adventist, Baptist and so on. But mutual respect is crucial. Grace Church in Shanghai was originally a Methodist Church, but many Christians of an Anglican background worship in it. The Adventists continue to have their Sabbath on a Saturday and we respect that.”

Mixed response to Taiwan elections from church leaders: CEN 4.07.08 April 7, 2008

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CHURCH leaders have offered a mixed response to the March 22 elections in Taiwan. While applauding the island’s vibrant and free democratic institutions and the prospects of peace with mainland China, the Bishop David Lai of Taiwan said he was saddened by the voters’ rejection of a referendum seeking membership for Taiwan in the United Nations.

(pictured: The Kuomintang’s Ma Ying-jeou)

“We would like to be part of the UN,” Bishop Lai told ENI. “We feel sad and sorry for the referendum results. Taiwan makes a contribution to the United Nations and to the world.”

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section

Mixed response to Taiwan elections from church leaders

Christian groups urge prayer for China: CEN 4.04.08 p 6. April 5, 2008

Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper, Persecution.
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Published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A coalition of Christian advocacy groups has issued a call to prayer for the persecuted Christian Churches of China following a meeting in Zurich on March 28.

The Zurich Statement “reaffirms the solidarity of the international Christian community with the Chinese faithful, especially the persecuted house church” movement, Bob Fu of the China Aid Association said. “We pray the true religious freedom in China will finally be realized soon.”

The members of the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) noted that since the dark days of the Cultural Revolution there had been “advances in religious freedom in China” and that the Communist Party’s recent affirmation that “religious believers have an important role to play in the development of society” were welcome steps forward.

China’s burgeoning Christian population could not be considered a subversive foreign element, the Zurich Statement said, as Chinese Christians were “law abiding citizens” committed “to the development of the nation of China.” Official statistics published by China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) state there are 10 million Protestants and 4 million Catholics in China. However, China Aid reports the number of unofficial Christians being 10 times as large.

In a briefing for Community Party cadres and academics held last year in Peking, SARA director Yie Xiaowen reported there were 110 million Protestants and 20 million Catholics in China at the close of 2006. In 1949 there were an estimated 750,000 Chinese Protestants, many of whom subsequently fled to Taiwan and Hong Kong following the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces.

The RLP called upon Christians in the West to answer the call to prayer of Chinese Christian leaders for the state to grant “full freedom” for believers “to manifest their faith in China, the release of unjustly imprisoned Chinese Christians, and an end to discrimination and persecution of religious believers.”

Joining China Aid were 12 other mission and advocacy groups including Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors International, Release International UK, Voice of the Martyrs and the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission.

“The call for prayer is rooted in the fact that the RLP felt it was time to acknowledge some progress in China’s attitude toward religious liberty and also the part Christians play at all levels of Chinese society,” stated Mervyn Thomas of Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

“There is still a very long way to go and religious freedom is something very alien to many Christians in China,” he said, yet prayers for the Church in China were beginning to bear fruit. “Christians all over the world have been praying for their Chinese family for many years and I believe we are beginning to see the impact of those prayers today.”

“In spite of many obstacles, the Church in China has multiplied,” said Johan Compajen of Open Doors International. “What seemed impossible in the past has happened because around the world we joined the Chinese Christians in prayer and our Chinese brothers and sisters have been willing to pay the price for following Jesus. If we continue to pray, we may be surprised by what God will do in the coming 30 years.”

Riot police clash with Tibetan monks: CEN 3.12.08 March 12, 2008

Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper, Persecution, Politics.
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RIOT police have clashed with Buddhist monks in the streets of Lhasa, breaking up demonstrations marking the 49th anniversary of Tibet’s national uprising against China.

Radio Free Asia reports that on March 11, police and uniformed troops of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) fired gas grenades into a column of approximately 500 monks marching from the Sera monastery north of the city towards the Potala Palace—the former seat of the exiled Dalai Lama.

The violence in Tibet comes in the same week the US government softened its stance towards China’s human rights record. While China’s “human rights record remained poor,” the US State Department’s annual report moved China from its list of the “world’s most systematic human rights violators,” to a lesser category of “authoritarian countries that have experienced rapid social change but haven’t undertaken democratic reforms and continue to deny their citizens basic human rights.”

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

Riot police clash with Tibetan monks

China ‘can use religion to enhance social harmony’: CEN 3.5.08 March 5, 2008

Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper, Persecution, Politics.
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RELIGIOUS belief under the guiding hand of the state can be a tool for promoting social harmony, the number four man in the Chinese Politburo said on Monday at the opening session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing.

The chairman of the national committee of the CPPCC, Jia Qinglin’s (pictured) comments come amidst rising tensions and expectations from China’s rapidly growing Christian population. The state “should fully follow the policy on freedom of religious belief, implement the regulations on religious affairs, and conduct thorough research on important and difficult issues related to religion,” Jia said on March 3.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

China 'can use religion to enhance social harmony'

The Primate of Nigeria and the last Bishop in China 丁光訓 February 18, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Album (Photos), China, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria.
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The Most Rev. Peter Akinola, Archbishop of  Abuja and Primate of Nigeria, and the Rt. Rev. Kuang-Hsun Ting ( 丁光訓 ),  Bishop of Chekiang (Zhejiang), 1955 – ?, Photo taken July 18, 2006 in Shanghai.

Anglicans stay away from democracy protests: CEN 1.25.08 p 6. January 28, 2008

Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui.
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cardinal-joseph-zen.jpgDemocracy activists led by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen and the President of the Hong Kong Christian Council, the Rev. Ralph Lee Ting-sun of the Methodist Church led some 6000 protesters through the streets of the city last week demanding Peking reverse its decision to delay the introduction of universal suffrage.

However, Anglican leaders in Hong Kong were absent from last week’s democracy marches, sources tell The Church of England Newspaper, as the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui under former Archbishop Peter Kwong, and the current Archbishop Paul Kwong have followed a policy of non-interference in political affairs.

At a prayer meeting held before the start of the Jan 17 rally, Cardinal Zen called Peking’s decision not to introduce universal suffrage by 2012 “brutal.” The Roman Catholic Church would continue to agitate for the civil rights of the people of Hong Kong as guaranteed by international treaty and the Basic Law—Hong Kong’s governing charter, he stated.

In contrast to the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church in Hong Kong does not offer its comments or opinions on political issues and has taken no stance, for or against, democracy. Its clergy have been pressured not to participate in pro-democracy activities, and its leaders were absent from last week’s rally, sources in the Hong Kong church tell CEN.

At his installation on Sept 26 at St. John’s Cathedral, the new primate of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, Archbishop Kwong told the congregation the Anglican Church would not take part in Hong Kong’s campaign for universal suffrage or in “political activities. But it will observe the general social situation in order to see how it can be of useful assistance”.

China cracks down on house church movement: CEN 12.21.07 p 6. December 25, 2007

Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper.
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Chinese police have arrested 270 Christian ministers in a raid upon a Bible study held for pastors of the underground House Church movement.

The Communist government continues to pursue a mixed policy towards its growing Christian population, now numbering in the tens of millions. While harassing the leaders of the Protestant House Church movement, the government has sanctioned the production of Bibles by the state Christian publisher, Amity Printing Company, and has permitted links between Chinese Christians and the West.

The Bible Society reports that its China Bible appeal has raised sufficient funds to underwrite the costs of 10,000 new Bibles in China. The Church in China has witnessed tremendous growth in recent years, with an estimated 15,000 converts made each day, the Bible Society reports.

“When people don’t have access to Scriptures they can read and understand, this is Bible poverty,’ said Peter Meadows, Bible Society’s Director of Giving and Communications.  British Christians are “helping to fight it by providing Bibles where they are needed like in China’s rapidly growing church,” he said.

Primates back Chinese Christians: CEN 11.16.07 p 8. November 19, 2007

Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper, Global South.
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The Global South coalition of Primates has commended the work of the government-backed China Christian Council and the “Three Self Patriotic Movement”, saying China’s post-denominational protestant Church could serve as a model of Christianity in the developing world.

The Oct 30 statement “wholeheartedly commend” the Chinese government for its “openness and desire to extend sustainable support to the work of the church here.”  The primates noted with approval the “significant amendment” made by the 17th National Party Congress of the Community Party that “resolves to strengthen the work for the full implementation of the policy of freedom of religion in China.”

The creation by the Communist government of a “post-denominational institution with Chinese characteristics” was an “area where the churches in the Global South and the Church in China can work together so that the apostolicity and catholicity of the Church may be upheld,” the primates wrote.

Present at the Oct 25-30 meeting in Shanghai were Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Archbishop Bernard Malango of Central Africa, Archbishop Ian Ernest of the Indian Ocean, Presiding Bishop Mouneer Anis of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, Archbishop Justice Akrofi of Wes Africa, Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda, Archbishop Fidèle Dirokpa of the Congo and Archbishop Francis Park of Korea.

While lauding the Communist government’s new openness to Christianity, the Global South primates remained quiet on the persecution of Chinese Christians outside of the approved denomination.  While no public statements were issue, conservative leaders in the US and Britain were taken aback by the Global South primates’ backing of the Communist regime and its silence over the country’s “House Churches,” home to the majority of China’s Christians.

Beijing Olympics committee denies it is banning Bibles: CEN 11.16.07 p 8. November 19, 2007

Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper, Persecution.
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beijing-olympics-logo.gifThe Peking Olympics organizing committee has denied published reports that athletes will be banned from bringing Bibles with them into the Olympic Village.

Li Zhanjun, the director of the Peking Olympics media center stated the Bible ban was “an intentional distortion of truth.” However, Chinese émigré organizations report the government has issued instructions to the security forces to ensure that religious and political dissent is quashed before the start of next summer’s games.

Last week the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport reported Bibles would be banned from the grounds of the Olympic facilities due to security concerns.

Mr. Li responded that religious services for Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists would be available for athletes, and that there would be no restrictions upon bringing Bibles into the village.

However a notice on the official Olympics Web site explaining entry procedures into the country said “each traveler is recommended to take no more than one Bible into China.”

The China Aid Association, a Chinese Christian émigré group based in the United States, reported the Chinese Ministry of Public Security of the Chinese government in April initiated a secret scrutiny programme of participants in the games.

“These include members of the Olympic Committee, athletes, media and sponsors,” said a CAA spokesperson. “With this, they also provide a list of 43 types of people in 11 categories to be barred from attending the Olympic Games.”

The blacklist includes “antagonistic elements”, adherents of the banned Falun Gong cult, religious extremists and “religious infiltrators”, rights activists, anti-Party elements, as well as criminals, terrorists, and members of banned political organizations.

Bibles banned at Beijing Olympics: CEN 11.07.07 November 8, 2007

Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper, Persecution.
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Bibles banned at Beijing Olympics

Bibles have been banned by the Beijing Olympics organizing committee from the 2008 game’s Olympic village.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Hong Kong Church ‘to work with Chinese government’: CEN 10.05.07 p 6. October 4, 2007

Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui.
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The Anglican Church in Hong Kong will work with the Chinese government and eschew political activism, Archbishop Paul Kwong pledged during his service of institution last week.

The new primate of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui told the congregation of St. John’s Cathedral on Sept 26 the Church would not take part in Hong Kong’s campaign for universal suffrage or in “political activities. But it will observe the general social situation in order to see how it can be of useful assistance”.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Chinese Christian Fronts Campaign: CEN 9.21.07 p 6. September 23, 2007

Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Christian witness of Chinese female footballer Han Duan will preface 150,000 copies of the Gospel of Mark distributed by the Bible Society in cooperation with the China Christian Council, during this week’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Shanghai.

China’s leading strike, Han Duan 23, has been named a “player to watch” by FIFA.com, earning her first international cap in 2000 at the age of 15.

“No matter where I go, I take the Bible along. I love to read it because there are important lessons to be learnt each day. I also find that the Bible is filled with wisdom and joy, instructing me on how to live meaningfully,” her preface states.

Ian McKay, Bible Society’s International Director of Programme said, “Han’s testimony is a wonderfully positive story.  Football is enormously popular in China, and we hope many football fans will be encouraged to explore the Bible for themselves.”

The tournaments kicked off in Shanghai on Sept 10 with 336 players from 16 national teams competing for the women’s World Cup.

China Expels Missionaries: CEN 7.27.07 p 6. July 26, 2007

Posted by geoconger in China, Church of England Newspaper, Mission Societies/Religious Orders.
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The Chinese government has begun its largest expulsion campaign of foreign Christian missionaries since 1954, the China Aid Association reports, with over 100 Christian missionaries forced to leave the country since April.

The campaign, code named Typhoon No 5, “is part of cleaning house effort before the [2008] Beijing Olympics”, CAA president Bob Fu told The Church of England Newspaper. “Unfortunately it picks up the wrong target by expelling foreign Christian workers.”

On July 10, CAA reported that Christian missionaries from the US, South Korea, Singapore, Canada, Australia and Israel working in Xinjiang, Beijing, Tibet and the Shandong province had been expelled, with over 60 forced to leave Xinjiang and 30 from Beijing.

On July 1, three Americans were detained for three days by the security services in Beijing and expelled from the country. The jailed missionaries were forbidden contact with the US embassy, the CAA reported, and were banned from entering China for five years upon their release.

Anti-foreign agitation does not appear to extend beyond missionaries. Gary Lausch of the English Language Institute/China which sends English teachers to China reported that none of their workers had been expelled. When I traveled to China in March I didn’t sense any special political ‘pressure’ but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” he told the CEN.

“Given the significant contribution to the Chinese people made by those expelled foreigners, this campaign is certainly misguided and counter-productive,” Bob Fu said. The CAA called upon the Chinese government “to correct this wrong course by allowing these selfless good-hearted people of faith back into China.”

 

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