Religious Freedom

Instead of the Communist party’s intolerance, democratic Taiwan offers a positive example.

The Diplomat
Date: August 29, 2019
By: Farahnaz Ispahani

response to protests in Hong Kong this summer are part of a wider policy shift under President Xi Jinping that includes

Image Credit: Illustration by Catherine Putz
increasing persecution of religious and ethnic minorities. The Chinese Communist Party and Xi appear to have decided to consolidate power by reverting to a harder line on human rights than was witnessed in the years since China opened to the rest of the world after the era of Mao Zedong.

Beijing’s repression of more than 13 million Muslims in Xinjiang and its increased surveillance of Christians and Tibetan Buddhists is getting worse. China has not respected freedom of religion and belief since the 1949 communist takeover. But just as the suppression of dissent in Hong Kong represents a turning away from the promise and practice of relative freedom over the last few years, mass arbitrary detention, torture, and prohibitions on Islam in Xinjiang are appalling even by China’s standards.

The current set of China’s policies are described as “Xi Jinping Thought” or “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” It is becoming increasingly clear that in this set of beliefs, there is no place for religious tolerance or the freedom of conscience and belief.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

In addition to the so-called “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, where a million Muslims are believed to be detained, reports have surfaced of suppression of Christians in Henan province and increasing scrutiny of Hui Muslims in Ningxia. Unlike the Turkic Uyghurs and Tibetan Buddhists, who are accused of nurturing separatist ideas, China’s Christians and the Hui Muslims are being punished for no reason other than their religious beliefs.

The Chinese government has also cracked down on Falun Gong practitioners, sending many in that community to labor camps. Survivors have recalled suffering torture and sleep deprivation at these camps.

Under the Trump administration, the United States has been vocal in condemning China’s abuses against faith communities. Earlier this year, Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador for International Religious Freedom, said during a speech in Hong Kong that the Chinese government is “at war with faith.”    [FULL  STORY]

But migrants embracing God in highly Christian Nairobi are often unaware of the atheist Communist Party’s war on religion

Date: April 28, 2019
By: Jenni Marsh, CNN

Jonathon Chow, 43, a senior pastor at the Bread of Life Church, delivers a sermon to the Nairobi congregation during a visit from Taiwan, where he is based and the church is headquartered.

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN)Every Sunday morning in an affluent suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, the soaring song of Chinese hymns fills the empty corridors of a Monday-to-Friday office block.
Inside a small makeshift chapel, a kaleidoscopic congregation of Chinese migrants gather to pray. Among them are underwear importers, health workers and operators of the controversial new $3.8 billion Chinese-built railway that slices through Kenya, the country’s biggest infrastructure project since independence — and a sign of China’s growing investment and footprint on the continent.

Some have married Kenyans, others have Chinese children who speak Swahili as well as they do Mandarin.

But they all share two things. Each person here has re-rooted their life from Communist China to Kenya, a leading African economy where 80% of the nearly 50 million people are Christian. And they have all decided to openly embrace God.

Jonathon Chow, 43, a senior pastor at the Bread of Life Church, delivers a sermon to the Nairobi congregation during a visit from Taiwan, where he is based and the church is headquartered.
Their religious awakening comes at a perilous moment for Christians in China, as the Communist Party government bans online sales of bibles, dynamites churches and arrests Christians for “inciting subversion of state power.” The Communist Party sees any large group outside its dominion as a threat.

“Publicly, it’s dangerous to be a Christian in China right now,” says Jonathon Chow, 43, a senior pastor at the Bread of Life Church, which is headquartered in Taiwan but has 500 ministries, including many in West Africa.

Previously, the organization’s churches in Africa tended to be run and attended by Africans, he says. But increasingly Bread of Life is seeing Chinese-led congregations forming across the continent, as more Chinese move to Africa and interact with local values.    [FULL  STORY]

Religious freedom is a growing theme of President Donald Trump’s confrontation with Beijing, and it’s resonating with Christian leaders.

Date:  12/30/2018

President Donald Trump rarely addresses religious freedom or human rights, and when it comes to China he focuses mainly on Beijing’s trade practices. | Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence infuriated Beijing when he gave a speech in October warning that China had become a dangerous rival to the United States. While he focused on familiar issues such as China’s trade policies and cyber espionage, Pence also denounced the country’s “avowedly atheist Communist Party.”

Citing a crackdown on organized religion in the country, Pence noted that Chinese authorities “are tearing down crosses, burning Bibles and imprisoning believers.”

“For China’s Christians,” Pence said, “these are desperate times.”

Pence’s remarks, which also addressed the repression of Chinese Buddhists and Muslims, illustrated how religious freedom is a growing theme of President Donald Trump’s confrontation with Beijing, which some foreign policy insiders warn could develop into a new Cold War.

It is a subject that resonates in the U.S. heartland, some Christian leaders say — parts of which, including rural areas, are disproportionately at risk of fallout from Trump’s trade fight with the Asian giant.    [FULL  STORY]

The New York Times
Date: Dec. 10, 2018
By: Ian Johnson 

Wang Yi, second from right, met President George W. Bush in 2006 at the White House with other prominent Christian activists.CreditEric Draper/The White House, via Reuters

The Chinese police have detained one of the country’s most prominent Protestant pastors along with more than 100 members of his independent congregation, the latest sign of a growing crackdown against what the government perceives as illegal or foreign-influenced religious activity.

Wang Yi, who heads the Early Rain Covenant Church in the southwestern metropolis of Chengdu, was detained Sunday evening as congregants gathered for services, said members of the church.

“Lord, help us to have the Christian’s conscience and courage to resist this ‘Orwellian nonsense’ with more positive Gospel action and higher praise,” the church said in a statement shortly before the members were detained. “Without love, there is no courage.”

More than 100 church members were detained on Sunday, according to statements issued by church members. As of Monday morning, police vans were parked outside the high-rise office where the church purchased space. Officers were seen carrying office materials out of the church’s property, which also includes a kindergarten and seminary.

By Monday afternoon, some of the members of the congregation had been released, although some were immediately placed under house arrest, including the assistant deacon Zhang Guoqing.

One of the church’s longtime members and member of its advisory council, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she feared government retaliation, confirmed that church members had been detained. She said it was unclear how long those members were expected to remain in custody, but said the situation was serious.

The police in Chengdu referred questions to the city’s propaganda department, which did not immediately respond to faxed requests for comment on Monday.

In September, the authorities informed the church that it was in violation of the government’s religious policy, according to a copy of the notice posted by church activists on social media.

Date: Nov 3, 2018
By: Ewelina U. Ochab, Contributor

This picture taken on June 26, 2017, shows a Muslim man arriving at the Id Kah Mosque for the morning prayer on Eid al-Fitr in the old town of Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uighur

In October 2018, several news outlets reported that Muslims in China were being detained for re-education purposes. The reports suggested that China was participating in the practice of forced conversion whereby Muslims, among other things, are forced to “eat pork and drink alcohol.” Activities that, in fact, have nothing to do with education. The topic has recently gained much attention, yet several politicians first raised this issue months ago, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) for example.

Autonomous Region. The increasingly strict curbs imposed on the mostly Muslim Uyghur population have stifled life in the tense Xinjiang region, where beards are partially banned and no one is allowed to pray in public. Beijing says the restrictions and heavy police presence seek to control the spread of Islamic extremism and separatist movements, but analysts warn that Xinjiang is becoming an open-air prison. (Photo credit: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
In a letter dated April 3, 2018, and sent by Marco Rubio and Chris Smith to US Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, the facts are made clear. The letter cites credible reports that between 500,000 and a million people are or have been detained in said re-education camps in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It alleges that this practice of re-education is the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today:

Thousands are being held for months at a time and subjected to political indoctrination sessions.  Many have reportedly been detained for praying, wearing “Islamic” clothing, or having foreign connections, such as previous travel abroad or relatives living in another country.  Reports have emerged of the deaths of detainees in these centers, including the death of a well-known Muslim religious scholar who may have been held in such a facility, and there are reports that torture and other human rights abuses are occurring in overcrowded centers secured by guard towers, barbed wire, and high walls.”

Even though, initially, the Chinese government denied the existence of such re-education camps, the subsequent steps taken by the Chinese government suggests otherwise. In October 2018, the Chinese government introduced a new law aimed at addressing extremism that may be seen as legalizing the reported re-education camps.    [FULL  STORY]

The suppression of the Uyghurs deserves the world’s attention.

The Wall Street Journal
Date: Aug. 9, 2018
By: Marco Rubio

Chinese police watch as Muslims exit a mosque in Kashgar, China, June 26, 2017. PHOTO:JOHANNES EISELE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The phrase “re-education camp” invokes Mao’s Cultural Revolution or Vietnam after the communist takeover. But this form of repression is alive and well in Xi Jinping’s China. His government is imposing a “political re-education” campaign in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, targeting the Uyghur Muslim population, Kazakhs and other ethnic Muslim minorities.

Xinjiang today is “a police state to rival North Korea, with a formalized racism on the order of South African apartheid,” wrote one expert. Its residents make up only 1.5% of China’s population—but accounted for 21% of arrests in 2017. This massive increase over the previous year doesn’t include detainees in re-education centers.

China has detained as many as one million people in camps. While Chinese authorities deny that such camps exist, satellite images show the recent construction of massive structures in Xinjiang. Researchfrom China scholar Adrian Zenz details Chinese government procurement and construction bids for new re-education facilities and “upgrades and enlargements” to existing ones.

Security personnel subject camp detainees in Xinjiang to torture, medical neglect, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and other deadly forms of abuse. They also force detainees to submit to daily brainwashing sessions and hours of exposure to Communist Party propaganda. The prisoners’ overseers require recitation of party slogans before eating.    [FULL  STORY]

NPR News
Date: August 10, 2018

Chinese Hui Muslims pray during Eid al-Fitr prayers at Niujie Mosque in Beijing in 2015. Authorities in western China were poised to begin demolition of a mosque Friday, despite protests by members of the country’s Muslim Hui ethnic minority determined to preserve the newly built structure.
Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Thousands of members of China’s Hui Muslim minority have gathered at the site of a mosque in Weizhou, in northwestern China, in an attempt to block the government from demolishing the building.

Protesters told some reporters that the government proposed altering the building to make it look more traditionally Chinese, instead of demolishing it, but that the Muslim community rejected that proposal.

The Grand Mosque in Weizhou is brand-new — it was just finished last year. Authorities say it lacks the proper permits and must be torn down. But worshipers are fiercely opposed. They point out that the government did not raise concerns about the permits during the actual construction process.

One resident told the BBC the protesters “won’t let the government touch the mosque.”

Public demonstrations like this are not common in China, “where the government is often quick to quash any hint of dissent,” The Associated Press notes.

Hui residents who spoke to the AP by telephone said the protesters began to gather on Thursday:

Duo spent 17 hours in police custody despite cultural mission

Taiwan News 
Date: 2018/02/22
By: Matthew Strong, Taiwan News, Staff Writer

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A writer for the New York Times and his French photographer were detained by Chinese police for 17 hours after their visit to a Tibetan temple over the Lunar New Year.

Tibetan nuns in the Chinese province of Yunnan. (By Associated Press)

Reporter Steven Lee Myers and photographer Gilles Sabrie were visiting the Dzongsar Monastery in Sichuan Province to observe monks rehearsing a dance for the Tibetan New Year, or Losar.

However, a uniformed police officer appeared at the temple and said there were questions to answer, Myers wrote in his piece, which took the place of the originally planned cultural feature.

He described the incident as a “self-inflicted embarrassment” as all he had planned to do was to write about holiday traditions in the region.    [FULL  STORY]

Vatican to move to end standoff and gain authority by recognizing seven excommunicated prelates

The Wall Street Journal
Date: Feb. 1, 2018
By: Francis X. Rocca in Vatican City and
Eva Dou in Beijing

Pope Francis has decided to accept the legitimacy of seven Catholic bishops appointed by the

The choir sings at Christmas Eve Mass at the Xuanwumen Catholic Church in Beijing in December. PHOTO: WU HONG/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Chinese government, a concession that the Holy See hopes will lead Beijing to recognize his authority as head of the Catholic Church in China, according to a person familiar with the plan.

For years, the Vatican didn’t recognize the bishops’ ordinations, which were carried out in defiance of the pope and considered illicit, part of a long-running standoff between the Catholic Church and China’s officially atheist Communist Party.

The pope will lift the excommunications of the seven prelates and recognize them as the leaders of their dioceses, according to the person familiar with the situation. A Vatican spokesman declined to comment.

The decision reflects the Holy See’s desire for better relations with China—where Christianity is growing fast, though mostly in the form of Protestantism—and for an end to the division between the government-controlled church and a larger so-called underground church loyal to Rome. Catholics are estimated to number from 9 million to 12 million, while Protestants run from 40 million in some studies to two or more times that number in the estimates of some missionary groups.    [FULL  STORY]

China is right to worry about the dangers of Islamic extremism in its western provinces, but it must also recognize that this threat is a result of Beijing’s own policies.

The News Lens
Date: 2017/03/07
By: The Japan Times

China has long had an uneasy relationship with the Uighurs, Muslims who constitute a majority

Photo Credit: Reuters / 達志影像

of the population in the western province of Xinjiang. The Chinese Communist Party has worried about the threat of terrorism emanating from the region and has adopted increasingly repressive policies to counter that danger. The result, predictably enough, has been growing unrest. Beijing is now stepping up activities in the region and beyond its borders to check this threat; an indiscriminate heavy hand will do more harm than good.

China’s Xinjiang province is 45 percent Uighur, a Turkik-speaking Muslim group. While they are one of the 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities in China, Uighurs have complained that they have been discriminated against and their native culture denied as an influx of Han Chinese — who now constitute 40 percent of the population — have been brought into the region as part of a stabilization and pacification program. As in Tibet, the authorities claim that they are modernizing a backward part of their country and combating local groups that are terrorists or have terrorist inclinations.    [FULL  STORY]