The Netherlands’ New Year greeting did not go down well in China

Date: January 3, 2020
By: By Jane Li

It was supposed to be a good wish to ring in the new year but for many web surfers in China there were bad vibes about the message posted on a popular Chinese social network by the embassy of the Netherlands in Beijing.

The message, which emphasized the importance of human rights, contained a screenshot of the Chinese court document (link in Mandarin) that sentenced a Chinese Christian pastor to nine years in prison.

The message was posted by the embassy on its official Weibo account on New Year’s Day. “One of the wishes for 2020 that the Netherlands has is for all countries globally to implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights unconditionally,” it said. “Today, we would like to reiterate the article 18 of the declaration: everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

The attached screenshot was about Wang Yi,  a Christian pastor who founded  Early Rain Covenant Church,  one of China’s largest underground churches. Wang was sentenced to nine years in prison for subversion of state power and illegal business operations on Dec. 30. Wang, who was known for his open criticism of Chinese leaders including president Xi Jinping, was detained in December 2018, along with his wife and a dozen other churchgoers and church leaders. Most of the detainees have since been released, but there has been no news of Wang until his sentencing.

China requires churches and all places of worship to register with the government but Wang did not. His Protestant church met secretly, possibly in places such as hotel conference rooms and cafes.