China Aid Association
Friday, December 21 2007 @ 02:21 PM EST
Edited by: Michael HessOne can only hope that China follows Scrooge’s path at the end of ‘The Christmas Carol’ and has a change of heart
BBSNews 2007-12-21 — By Robert Duncan. China is into the classics, like Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.” With Christmas just around the corner the Chinese government has personified Scrooge in its harassing of Christians.
Contrary to some popular perceptions Christianity has long and deep roots in China – there are even claims that Christianity reached those shores in the 1st Century AD. It is pious tradition that St Thomas – he of Doubting Thomas fame – brought the Gospel to China. China’s first hospitals and clinics and nursing schools were constructed thanks to Christians, not to mention the Boxer Rebellion, which was partially fought as a reaction opposing Christianity.
Despite these facts, press often write articles that mention the tiny minority of Chinese Christians – but fail to put such a statement in context. Out of a total population of about 1.3 billion there are around 54 million Christians in China, with the largest group being Protestants at roughly 39 million.
By comparison there are only 20 million Muslims in China, while Buddhism is the largest practicing faith with 100 million.
Ebenezer Scrooge encounters “Ignorance” and “Want” in A Christmas Carol.Image Credit: Robert Duncan 2007-12-21.
In other words, there are more Chinese Christians than there are people living in Spain, or almost 8 times more than there are in Switzerland. To carry this out even further there are twice as many Chinese Catholics as there are Swiss, and there are more Chinese Protestants than the entire population of California. I’m sure there must be a joke there somewhere, but sadly this isn’t a joking matter.
“To arbitrarily arrest peaceful Christians for celebrating Christmas, shows how much religious freedom Chinese people have,” said Bob Fu, President of China Aid Association. “The international community should be concerned for the increasing religious persecution in China in recent months especially in light of the Beijing Olympics just a few months away.”
In a letter sent Thursday to US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice regarding the Olympics, Human Rights Watch noted the U.S. “administration does not yet appear to have a comprehensive strategy to address human rights abuses related to preparations for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. As you know, China continues to have a dismal human rights record. Many countries, including the United States, have lost momentum in their efforts to press for change. We believe that the period prior to the Olympics offers the potential for heightened willingness in Beijing to improve respect for human rights, and that this opportunity must be vigorously seized.”
According to Asia News, “the economic opening of China has led to Christmas becoming an accepted and loved holiday. Christmas trees are on sale in the major cuties and countryside, as will as nativity scenes and greeting cards.”
But economics does not make Christmas. “For many underground Catholics there will be no Christmas mass: there bishops are under house arrest, as are many priests. As a result the only way they have of celebrating the Jesus’ birth is to gather together and listen to the mass transmitted by Vatican Radio. The lack of priests, (and of freedom) in many areas in China, forces many to travel up to 50 km to attend midnight mass,” that same Asia News article noted.
According to China Aid, “In spite of increasing persecution, house church members remain adamant and vocal about celebrating the Christmas season. Services continue to be held celebrating the birth of Christ, as members gather to sing songs and worship despite fears of arrest and imprisonment.”
House church members are Protestants who choose to meet independently of more official or organized churches. As these meetings or fellowships are not registered with the State as required the Chinese government views them as being illegal entities. As a result they are often severely persecuted. Labeled by police officials as “cultists”, house church members are often sentenced to labor camps when they are detained by police.
In one such recent incident, Pastor Liang Qi Zhen, Vice President of the Chinese House Church Alliance, was detained by PSB officials in Er Qi District on December 16. After disbursing Liang’s congregation, police officials took him by force and transported him to an undisclosed location where he was tortured for several hours.
China Aid said Liang’s ears and right hand were injured during the lengthy assault. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Liang was later to identify the policeman who tortured him not only as a Er Qi Security Bureau policeman, but also by name – Li Seng – and that the policeman was not reprimanded.
But it’s not just Christian agencies that denounce the treatment.
In a past report from Amnesty International noted the case of Gong Shengliang, the leader of an un-registered church in Hubei Province, who was sentenced to death on 29 December 2001 on charges of “rape”, “causing deliberate injury”, and “using a heretical organization to undermine the implementation of the law”. Four of his co-defendants were also sentenced to death, and 12 others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two years to life, all on similar charges relating to their involvement with a “heretical religious organization”.
Amnesty International noted that the charge of “using a heretical organization to undermine the implementation of the law” relates to his religious activities as a leader of the banned Huanan Church, which is reported to have over 50,000 members. The “church” was banned by the authorities as a ”heretical organization” in April 2001.
And the charges of rape?
“Amnesty International fears that the evidence and charges brought against Gong were based on confessions obtained through torture in an attempt to stop his religious activities. Because the charges of rape involved the “personal privacy” of the alleged rape victims the trials were closed,” said AI, adding “Three women whom Gong was alleged to have raped have produced written testimonies, claiming they were shackled, whipped, kicked and beaten on their chest with electric shock batons by the police in an attempt to force them to testify that they had been raped by Gong and to obtain evidence in their case against Gong.”
The attack on Liang isn’t the only incident in which Chinese officials are spreading their particular brand of Christmas cheer.
A house church in Chang Zhou City was attacked by police officials in December during a Christmas celebration. The church, led by Pastor Bu Ge Qiao, was in the midst of a Christmas service when police raided the gathering and detained four female members, according to China Aid.
During the incident the police brutalized one of the members, leaving her unconscious. The woman was taken to the hospital, but her condition remains unknown.
On December 5, 2007, policemen and members of the Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs raided a house church meeting in Kunming, and detained several members including, Ms. Piao Guihua, the renter of the property. After searching the building, police seized several hundred Christian books and note-pads, and then burned them outside the residence. Police also destroyed the identification cards of three of the church members.
After several hours of interrogation, the members were released and told to remove all property from the residence by 10am. The landlord of the building was also instructed to cease rental agreements with Ms. Piao. The same house church has been raided on several occasions beginning in December of 2004, September 2007, November 3, 2007, and November 29 2007. In each instance, police officials have confiscated the offering donations along with Bibles and other Christian literature. In every raid, police officials have failed to issue legal documentation of the property taken.
On Tuesday, December 4, policeman in Lu Yi district, Henan Province, attacked a local house church prayer meeting. Five church members were detained and taken to the local police station for interrogation. Their names are: Shao Guang Rong (the pastor of the church), his wife Zhang Ji Zhi, Yan Qi Ying, Cui LianZhi and Wang Xiao Jian.
The members were released on bail after 5 days detention, but not before being forced to pay an 800 Yuen fee for food consumed during their incarceration. According to several house church members, at the same time their leaders were taken by the police, dozens of believers in another town of the same district were also detained. No word concerning their release has been heard.
One can only hope that China follows Scrooge’s path at the end of ‘The Christmas Carol’ and has a change of heart.
Robert Duncan is a journalist and ombudsman for foreign press in Spain. He is an Executive Board Member and Vice-President for the Organization de Periodismo y ComunicaciÃ³n Ibero-Americana, and Vice-President of the energy and telecommunications association, APSCE. He is News Editor for Spero News, and Editor-In-Chief of EnerPub and Santificarnos.
He has also been published in World Catholic News, National Catholic Register, Renew America, Lifesite.net, as well as Capital Hill Coffee House, Common Conservative, The Conservative Voice, Enter Stage Right, News By Us, Conservative Crusader, World Net Daily, Mens News Daily and others. Robert was the bureau chief for an international news agency in Madrid for many years, and was published regularly in Dow Jones Newswires, with articles appearing in The Wall Street Journal.
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