By Rachel Ritchie, Ava Collins, and Brynne Lawrence
(Quzhou, Zhejiang—March 22, 2016) In a classic propaganda push, a municipal religious affairs bureau in China’s coastal Zhejiang province held an educational conference on March 3 at which officials analyzed several articles published by state-run media about the recent, high-profile cases of detained pastors and a lawyer, respectively, Gu “Joseph” Yuese, Bao Guohua and Zhang Kai.
The Quzhou Municipal Religious Affairs Bureau hosted the conference, which was attended by various leaders of religious venues and members of municipal religious venues.
During the conference, four articles published by the provincial government news agency, Zhejiang Daily, were presented and discussed, including, “The truth about ‘Zhang Kai’s case’ in Wenzhou,” “There are no exceptions to anti-corruption,” “Gu Yuese was removed from the post of chairman of a provincial Christian association according to the law” and “‘Impoverished’ pastor admits his corruption in court.” Additionally, the participants studied “Religious organizations in Zhejiang province reacted strongly to Bao Guohua’s case and Zhang Kai’s case, firmly supporting the sentences of the court,” an article written by the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee.
After the presentation of the news articles, “requests” were made of the attendees, which primarily pushed for the religious beliefs of the attendees, as well as those of religious leaders and practitioners throughout Zhejiang, to be set aside in favor of fostering a “sense of veneration … towards the national laws” and for even greater legal oversight to be imposed on religious groups.
In more detail, the first request states that “Religious people … must above all be law-abiding citizens in political society” and must “carry out religious activities according to the law.” However, Chinese law on religious activity fails to conform with the Chinese constitution, which guarantees religious freedom to all. These laws instead attempt to force religion into the Communist Party of China’s restrictive idea of what is appropriate.
The second stipulation asks that the morality of clergy members be improved through the elimination of the problems facing the anti-corruption campaign. This involves “rigorous, comparative inspections, deep self-reflection, self-analysis and practical searching … [thereby] strengthening obedient discipline that conscientiously abides by and reveres the law.” While corruption should be avoided, the Chinese government’s misunderstanding of pastors’ compensation leads to accusations of embezzlement and corruption against clergy. For example, Pastor Bao Guohua and his wife are accused of “using their positions as pastor and manager to use cash and a car and occupy a house offered by the church members.” In the United States, such forms of compensation for pastors are common.
More importantly, it goes against the beliefs of most religions for national law to be venerated, or worshipped, over said beliefs.
Finally, the third request says that “a sound system of regulations” should be established in order to “standardize the management and implementation of rigorous demands for the clergy.” The creation of such a system only allows for more government control over Chinese citizens’ right to religious freedom and encourages religious adherents to embrace this restriction.
China Aid condemns such proposals as being in direct opposition of religious freedom, the most fundamental human right.
China Aid reports on events such as this conference in order to highlight the oppression of religious freedom in China and to promote the ideals of religious freedom and rule of law.
On the morning of March 3, 2016, the Quzhou Municipal Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau held an educational conference on the 4th floor of Jiaotong Building, convening the members of municipal religious associations and the people in charge of [religious] venues in order to participate in an educational warning meeting. In the meeting, several typical cases were reported on—such as “Zhang Kai’s case” in Wenzhou, “Bao Guohua’s case” in Jinhua, the case of Gu Yuese from the two provincial Christian organizations [the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the China Christian Council], etc.—and [articles, such as] “There are no exceptions to anti-corruption” and “Gu Yuese was removed from the post of chairman of a provincial Christian association according to the law,” which were published by the Zhejiang Daily on March 1; “‘Impoverished pastor’ admits his corruption in court” and “The truth about ‘Zhang Kai’s case’ in Wenzhou,” which were published on Feb. 26 by the Zhejiang Daily; and “Religious organizations in Zhejiang province reacted strongly to Bao Guohua’s case and Zhang Kai’s case, firmly supporting the sentences of the court,” which was published by the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee on March 1, were examined. [This conference] deeply analyzed Zhang Kai’s case in Wenzhou, Bao Guohua’s case in Jinhua, and the case of Gu Yuese from the two provincial Christian organizations. Furthermore, three requests were made to the municipal religious associations and the people in charge of religious venues:
First, that the study of the laws and the constitution should be reinforced one step further, strengthening rule of law theories and urging correct understanding of the relationship between national laws and religious rules, with [observation of] national laws coming first and then religious rules. Religious people, no matter what kind of religion they believe in, must above all be law-abiding citizens in political society. They must observe and abide by the law and carry out religious activities according to the law. Anyone who embezzles or becomes corrupt will similarly receive the law’s punishment.
Second, we must nip the insufficient, prominent problems in the aspects of anti-corruption in the bud through rigorous, comparative inspections, deep self-reflection, self-analysis and practical searching. [This] improves the construction of ideologies and morality of religious figures, especially the clergy, [thereby] strengthening obedient discipline that conscientiously abides by and reveres the law and constructing the sturdy ideology of fighting against corruption and forestalling moral degeneration with a virtuous, defensive perimeter.
Third, religious associations and venues for religious activities must further establish a sound system of regulations, especially financial regulations, in order to examine and supply a deficiency and standardize the management and implementation of rigorous demands for the clergy, [allowing religion to] walk on the path of Sinicization and rule of law.