Telegraph report-Williams did not see real picture of religion in China, says activist group

China Aid Association
In pictures: the Archbishop’s trip to China
Williams did not see real picture of religion in China, says activist groupBy Richard Spencer in Beijing
Last Updated: 6:37am BST 24/10/2006

In pictures: the Archbishop’s trip to China
The Archbishop of Canterbury was accused yesterday of “not meeting the real church” after he toured China and concluded that freedom of religion had increased.
The Archbishop of Canterbury with choir members after a service in Beijing
Dr Rowan Williams said China was at a “watershed” in its attitude to religion despite the government’s record of persecuting underground Christians.
He said that, in meetings, Communist Party leaders had agreed that religion had a “positive role” to play in society, and denied that the Three Self Patriotic Movement, the state body which controls the Protestant church in China and hosted his two-week visit, was “false”.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a group which monitors the jailing of priests and members of unregistered churches in China, said the Three Self church had a record of co-operating in persecution.
“The Archbishop cannot make contact with the representatives of the majority house churches, the most credible Christian leaders in China, in part because some are in prison,” said Tina Lambert, its deputy director.
“The picture the Chinese are trying to portray is very misleading. The official religious bodies would not have shown him a real picture.”
Dr Williams visited “official” churches and seminaries as well as church-backed clinics, old people’s homes and villages for the children of criminals. In meetings with leaders, his attention was drawn to a document in which the party had agreed to “give free rein to religion’s positive function in promoting the harmonious society”.
The “harmonious society” is the party leadership’s latest catchphrase, referring to a campaign personally led by President Hu Jintao to close holes in social welfare that have opened as the state economy is replaced by private enterprise.
Dr Williams was told by Jia Qinglin, China’s fourth-ranking leader, that instructing the young in Christianity in Sunday Schools was no longer regarded as a problem, even though it remains theoretically illegal.
The Three Self church and its Catholic equivalent, the Catholic Patriotic Association, were established after the Communists came to power to replace independent churches and those that owed allegiance to “foreign forces”.
Even these churches were heavily persecuted in the Cultural Revolution, but the party now claims that there is freedom of religion, as long as adherents worship with “registered” organisations.
Many churches are either not allowed to register or refuse to do so because they do not accept either official doctrine or what they regard as the leadership of the party rather than Christ.
Adherents are regularly rounded up and a number of leaders, some with followings believed to be in the millions of people, have been jailed.
Dr Williams said he had raised the cases of six persecuted Christians with party leaders, and the situation of both the Protestant and Catholic unregistered churches.
“There is a record of harassment of religious minorities, with which we’re unhappy,” he said.
He said that a high-profile visitor such as himself could not personally meet underground Christians without risking their safety, and had no choice but to operate through the official church. “We have to work with what we’ve got,” he said.
But Miss Lambert said she would have liked to have seen more urgent criticism

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