Ignoring Christian Oppression in China


Just like President Obama’s first state visit to the People’s Republic of China, the mid-November 2009 visit of a delegation of international church leaders to the state-approved church in China began in Shanghai and ended in Beijing. Obama’s visit was heavy on diplomacy, but he did raise some general concerns about human rights and religious freedom. Shockingly, it was the church delegation from the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) that remained silent on that subject.

Press releases from the church delegation could have passed for White House/State Department media statements. Written in glowing terms, the WEA’s statements were free of criticism of the Chinese Communist regime’s persecution of religious believers and other human rights abuses. One release noted how the WEA delegation was “warmly received” by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the Communist regime’s ministry for monitoring and controlling churches. Another said that they had developed a “warm and open relationship of dialogue” with the state-approved China Christian Council. What was missing in the delegation’s reports was mention of any meetings with the vast majority of Chinese Christians that worship outside the confines of state-approved churches. In fact, the reports failed to even mention the existence of China’s 80 million or more house church Christians.

It has long been true that the left-leaning World Council of Churches (WCC) ignores vast swaths of the world’s persecuted Christians while “prophetically” defending the “victims” of America and Israel. They have more often seen Christians – particularly evangelical ones who insist embarrassingly on sharing their faith – as the persecutors, not the persecuted. But the WEA delegation, which met with China’s state-approved churches, and only state-approved churches, is part of an international organization created to give “worldwide identity, voice, and platform to more than 420 million evangelical Christians.” Yet eighty million Chinese house church Christians, evangelical Christians, were left without identity, voice, or platform in the WEA’s China report.

While meeting in Shanghai with the national leadership of the China Christian Council and the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China (TPSM), the WEA praised the “health and vibrancy” of the Chinese Church. The official church in China has experienced impressive growth in recent years.  As many as 20 million attend the official Protestant churches and another 10 million the state-approved Catholic Church. Still, many would question whether or not “healthy and vibrant” accurately describes a church whose members are resigned to existence under strict government control, and in which participation by children under the age of 18 and certain topics for sermons are forbidden.

Bob Fu, a human rights activist and former prisoner of faith in China, was shocked by the one-sided statement from his fellow evangelical Christians. Fu, the founder and president of China Aid, an advocacy and humanitarian relief organization, responded that while “there are true brothers and sisters leading faithful lives who attend the state churches,” the WEA statement’s “failure to mention 80 million faithful Christians who are clearly the majority of Chinese Christian population and meet in house churches and rented offices, has compromised the cause of the suffering church in China.” Fu added that “faithful house church prisoners who number in the thousands are grieved by WEA’s statement.”

Even as WEA and Chinese church officials were discussing pastor training, seminary development, and the “integration of evangelism and social services,” Chinese Communist authorities were cracking down on Shanghai’s two thousand-member Wangban Missionary Church. China Aid reported that local government authorities had “launched a city-wide man-hunt for the members of Wangban Church” to prevent any embarrassing encounters when President Obama arrived in Shanghai. The previous Sunday, November 8, every church attendee had been interrogated and fingerprinted, and then on November 12, police had evicted the church members from their building. But the resilient Wangban Church members continued to meet outdoors in spite of threats of arrest and the detention of the pastors. Perhaps this might be considered healthy and vibrant?

Among the agencies the WEA visited in Nanjing was the famous Amity Printing Company, the only government-approved printing press for Bibles. The WEA delegation effused over Amity’s “significant Bible printing operation,” but according to China Aid, Bibles printed by the Amity Printing Press are only available for sale at TSPM bookstores in urban areas.

Christians from rural areas are forced to travel thousands of miles to the nearest TSPM bookstores, and then are only allowed to buy a single Bible in one purchase. Many house church members have engaged in significant Bible printing operations of their own, but Bibles and other religious materials printed outside the government-sanctioned system are illegal. When discovered, printers are frequently arrested and their presses destroyed.

Often such contraband is confiscated in the process of a police raid on a house church. For example, on September 13, 2009, officials confiscated all of the Bibles, cell phones, and money of church members when they raided the Fushan branch of the 50,000-member Linfen Church and its associated Good News Shoe Factory in Shanxi province. Police beat up and injured several dozen church members and arrested a number of the church leaders. They destroyed property to such an extent that church members compared the scene to the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. China Aid says the local emergency room “was instructed by anonymous authorities to withhold treatment and prohibit blood transfusions for the injured church members.” One week after the WEA’s China visit, ten of the Linfen Church leaders were sentenced to long sentences in prison and reeducation-through-labor camps.

The last stop in the WEA delegation’s China visit was Beijing, where they met with local church leaders and government officials. The WEA stated that it “had gained some new perspectives on the church in this complex and huge nation.” But they may have gained a more realistic perspective on Christianity in China if they had been singing in the snow with the thousand members of Beijing’s Shouwang House Church, who were locked out of their rented worship space by the authorities on November 1. Forced to hold worship services outdoors in Haidian Park, the church members continue to meet – even during snowstorms. Interestingly, on November 15, authorities concerned about their exuberant witness told the church that they must meet indoors because of President Obama’s visit. For that one Sunday they were allowed to meet inside a theatre in the northeast part of the city before being relegated to the streets once again.

The WEA might also have gained a more realistic perspective if they had been at the Beijing home of Christian human rights attorney Jiang Tianyong. On November 19, Jiang was arrested and his wife beaten in front of their seven-year-old daughter as they left to take the girl to school early that morning. Jiang had angered Chinese authorities by coming to Washington, DC and testifying on behalf of another Beijing human rights attorney, Gao Zhisheng. Gao has been held and tortured, whereabouts unknown, since February 4, 2009. Other human rights attorneys, activists, and house church leaders in Beijing have suffered similar experiences. Blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng has been imprisoned since March 2006 for exposing 120,000 forced abortions that took place in one year in Shandong Province. And in 2009 over 22 Christian human rights attorneys lost their law licenses.

Although the TSPM church has a small presence in China’s autonomous regions, the WEA delegation did not venture there. But some of the Chinese authorities’ harshest punishments have been meted out to Christian converts from Islam in Xinjiang. Of particular concern is the case of Alimujiang Yimiti, a Uyghur Christian convert from Islam. Because of his Christian conversion, Alimujiang was illegally detained and held in prison for two years with no trial for “subverting the national government.” This charge, which usually applies to Uyghur insurgents who resist the Han Chinese presence in Xinjiang, is punishable by death. On December 7, 2009 Alimujiang was sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment on the false charge of “leaking state secrets.” He has not been allowed even one visit from his family, including his wife and two little boys, aged three and nine.

In reality, none of these incidents would come as a surprise to the WEA delegation. They are well aware of the challenges and suffering faced by China’s house churches. But according to their press release, church officials with whom they met “greatly value international partnerships that respect the mission and calling of the national church” and the WEA is eager to partner with China’s national church, even at the cost of ignoring China’s house churches.

“While we affirm WEA’s sincere intentions to serve the Church . . . the WEA’s public statement about their visit with TSPM leaders and Chinese government leaders has contributed to a misleading assessment about the true situation of the church in China,” Fu declared in his response to the WEA released on December 18, 2009.

Proverbs 27: 6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Fu’s words may not be comfortable for the WEA, but they are true and they are meant for the good. Likewise, the WEA would do more good for China’s state church by speaking out against the injustices inflicted on the house churches. Helping the state church to face the truth would show respect for the mission and calling of all of the Church in China.

Faith J. H. McDonnell directs The Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan, and is the author of Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children (Chosen Books, 2007).

  • USMCSniper

    Duhhhh,,, Communist country…. religion is the opium of the people…. Duhhhh,,, what do you expect?

    • http://www.theird.org Faith McDonnell

      Well, I don't expect fellow Christians to from around the world to not even note the existence of 80 million Christians in China.

      • USMCSniper

        And do you think the Chinese Communist give a hoot in hell to any of our objections. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could care less and the Chinese Communists laugh at the objections.

  • http://www.theird.org Faith McDonnell

    Thanks, Black Kettle, for reposting to your blog.

  • Weeger

    Interesting article, Ms. McDonnell. I would like to state, however, that Alimjan Yimit was likely sentenced more for his leadership within the Christian community than for his conversion from Islam. Chinese authorities do not like to see Uyghurs leading any type of community that falls outside of the control of the state. In addition, many Uyghurs who are charged with subversion are not "insurgents" but people who tried to express themselves peacefully in a way that was not acceptable to the government. One example is that of Uyghur leader Rebiya Kadeer's son Ablikim Abdureyim, who in fact was punished with subversion charges and nine years in prison merely in retaliation for Ms. Kadeer's overseas rights advocacy.

  • PastorEd

    It is all well and good for us to say Chinese Christians should stand up to their government, but they all know that such actions as simple as leading home churches has led to being an unwilling organ donor. There are worse things than prison. We would do better to be in constant prayer for them, giving them the support they request, rather than pushing them to martyrdom. Prayer and fasting on our part, on their behalf, can change people.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Rifleman Rifleman

      We could do much more on our end politically and materially to help those people. Our common self-declared enemy, the chicom government, still openly holds to their marxist world revolution doctrine, which is predicated on our eventual destruction. Nobody calls on people to die uselessly, to no effect, but it's a cold hard fact it will take people willing to die for their beliefs to stop the chicoms. I can't ask them to submit to and endure something that I couldn't.

      It takes more than prayer( though the subjugated are always in my prayers) and fasting to win freedom, and God doesn't help people who just sit on their cans waiting for a miracle from Him. The only miracles I've seen happened after I did all I could rightly do. I can't blame Him when He doesn't handle the rest (He certainly knows a lot I don't), but I thank Him when He does. You're absolutely right about the horror they face, and I don't think for a second it can't happen here.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/Rifleman Rifleman

        Oh, pardon my rudeness for not welcoming you to FPM comments, I haven't seen you here before. You'll find all kinds here, and sometimes we have some interesting theological discussions with a broad range of religions and denominations.

      • bushlikesdick2

        They are actually compounding the problem with their self interest agendas. It has less to do with being a Christian than benefiting from the tythes that they extort people from.

        I had many attractive yound Chinese college students that wore either a necklace with a cross on it or earings while insinuating a favor for me if I help give them the prestige that I can give them as an American so they can catapult of the feeding chain.
        Don't be ignorant

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/Rifleman Rifleman

          60 years of their chicom system has its ' effect, though culturally I think oriental cultures are the most adaptable to marxism. It's more who you know than what you know in socialist systems.

      • bushlikesdick2

        Deng Xiao Peng was in charge during the Tianaman Masacre and yet he created the special economic zones such as Shenzhen while being quoted as saying — Poverty is not socialism. To be rich is glorious—

        So the GOP has a pact with the devil? Deng Xiaopeng ordered the slaughter of maybe hundreds of thousands but we want to connect the Chinese govt. to this and not him?

        Don't get me wrong, I think Deng xioapeng has done more to help bring down communisim than anyother leader — it is these so call Christains that are hampering the efforts of Deng and thus helping closing the door on Capitalism

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/Rifleman Rifleman

          Sorry it took so long to reply, I got spoiled on the old comment gateway (Disqus), which isn't listing chronologically (I was nodding when I tried so I might have missed how to fix it), and didn't see your reply til 23Jan am.

          You still don't get it (I say that because you have the advantage of seeing the place with your own eyes). It's not about capitalism, it's about freedom. It's not hard to predict the result of maoists instituting THEIR socialist idea of "capitalism."

          "To be rich is to be glorious" says so much if you think about it. I am amazed at how honest the chicom leaders are about what they are doing (and I'm sure you hear much more of their leaders' pronouncements than I), yet many intelligent people miss the problem with it. Freedom leads to more people becoming materially wealthy, but that isn't the object, freedom is.

          I think you may be seeing "capitalism," through their eyes, and substituting that idea of 'capitalism' for freedom- religious, economic, and personal. I'd rather the Chinese be free, then they can really prosper, and advance themselves without having to ingratiate themselves on others.

    • bushlikesdick2

      Has less to do with being persecuted and more to do with political postering:
      With my own eyes, I watched Christains bicker over how to spend Christmas funds on students while construction workers (including mothers with small children) were working for 10 yuan per pay ( at that time the exchange was about 8.25) while living on frozen dirt — no running water or electricity with frost on the ground. Your Chinese Christians are in it for the pyrmid scheem that you are dirctly benefitting from.

  • james

    Chinese and oriental society s deplore anything embarrasing;if you attack the Government of China or the OFFICAIL church,it will only fan the fire.DISCUSSING patiently with the government of china how benificial Christians can be to the socieity and ECONOMY AND GENERAL WELFARE OF OUTLYING AREAS. is the Avenue to success in freeing China in general and watching it prosper in ways that are permanent.In the meantime;Christians should support the Government as much as possible ;as long as it does not interfere with thier personal BIBLICAL beleifs.you cannot expect the Chinese government to just throw all caution to the wind;be it economic military or religion.A slower metabolism is required;respect from all sides brings good tidings;tidings from the East.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Rifleman Rifleman

      Nope, that's the same bs we heard about the soviets, and it was wrong then. Apparently they don't deplore anything embarrassing as much as they should.

      Marxism itself interferes with my Christian beliefs.

    • bushlikesdick2

      Those are words of wisdom James. These right wing fanatic wanna be missionaries come into this country sneaking in Bibles when they can just access the Bible on the internet. But no, it is more fun and glorious to mock the govt. I can see it in their attitude.

      They think any chinese person that they have never seen before that comes into the teachers flat must be a communist spy. I was usually the one twirling my finger round my ear to imply that they are nuts.

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  • http://www.winmentalhealth.com scottgwolfenden

    We pray that God open up China for religious freedom. All deserve to worship God openly and freely. We have confidence in the words of 1 John 5:14,15,

    "And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that, no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us. 15 Further, if we know he hears us respecting whatever we are asking, we know we are to have the things asked since we have asked them of him."

    Jehovah's Witnesses also seek freedom of worship in China and are struggling for religious freedom, anew, in Russia:
    http://www.jw-media.org http://www.jw.org http://www.knocking.org/ReligiousPersecutionRepor

  • PraisetheLORD

    The Lord Jesus Christ hates all of these Antichrist governments and He will eradicate and destroy all of them when He returns:

    The real reason they attack Christians: Satan the Red Dragon rules China

    through the dirty Communists. The Lord Jesus Christ will return and He will

    exterminate the Chinese government. Jesus will wipe out all who are against

    Him: Read it

    The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the

    tares are the children of the wicked one;

    39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the

    world; and the reapers are the angels.

    40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be

    in the end of this world.

    41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of

    his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;

    42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and

    gnashing of teeth.

    43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their

    Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

    Matthew 13.

    Then read this:

    Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to

    the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble

    the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger:

    for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.

    Zephaniah 3

    These and other verses reveal why China and other nations hate Bible believing

    real Christians and the Bible: Because the Lord Jesus Christ is the true

    Master and Lord and He will eradicate all of them and take over and have a

    divine theocracy kingdom. He is the legitimate owner of the universe and the

    world and all of these evil devilish nations do not want to have to compete

    with Him, which they cannot.

    There is one place for the unrepentent communist: Eternal torment in Hellfire:

    42 And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it

    is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were

    cast into the sea.

    43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter

    into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that

    never shall be quenched:

    44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

    45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter

    halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that

    never shall be quenched:

    46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

    47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter

    into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into

    hell fire:

    48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

    Mark 9

    He will destroy them all and only the born again Christians and the saved Jews will rule under His theocratic reign. He will eradicate all of the Moslems too.