Is persecution in China increasing? Two house church leaders, one who was imprisoned in a labor camp for a few years, and the other who is a Chinese scholar with strengths in theological education and the history of the Chinese church, give their viewpoints on this topic.
Can Christians join the Communist Party? Should Christians join the Communist Party? These questions were posted online recently by a Chinese Christian on Zhihu, China’s version of Quora (a question and answer website). The questions sparked chatter among the online Christian community and also prompted a response from the official social media account of the Communist Youth League of China.
My neighborhood—most of my city, actually—is currently undergoing a dramatic change, the likes of which I have not seen in my two decades of residency. I first began to notice that something different was occurring in the autumn of last year, but in recent weeks the transformation has become undeniable and unavoidable. Its duration and its effects on the local population remain to be seen.
In order to be good stewards of the resources and opportunities given us to serve in this country, China workers are always on the lookout for insights into China’s current condition and how it might affect our prospects for ministry. In 2016 fall edition of The Washington Quarterly five eminent China hands contributed their perspectives on China’s future path.
Seeking social change outside the realm of politics—Christians in China are providing examples of how that might be done.
Much has been written the past few weeks about the draft revision to the Regulations on Religious Affairs, the main policy document that spells out how religion is to be managed in China.
On September 8, 2016 China's State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) sent a draft amendment for religious affairs administration to the Legal Office of the State Council. The amendments were posted on-line through the State Council website, requesting public opinions on the draft before October 7 of this year.
In April of this year, President Xi Jinping gave a speech at a national conference on religion in which he outlined his vision for the role religion can and should play in Chinese society. As is often the case with speeches from top leaders, his themes were painted in broad strokes, with very little specifics. Those are typically revealed in subsequent regulations.
The massive campaign against church crosses in China’s Zhejiang province is in the news again with the release this month of the US State Department’s 2015 Report on International Religious Freedom.
In August, First Things published an article penned by the Chinese Christian intellectual Yu Jie titled “China’s Christian Future.”
Police actions against several house churches in Guangdong province in recent weeks again point up the fragile state of China’s vast unregistered Christian community.
Last week we posted part 1 of a proposal to resolve the status of house churches in China. In part 2, Professor Liu gets more specific as to how a house church documentation system could be set up and what would be gained by doing so.
In March, the WeChat Public account called 《宗教法治》(Religious Law) published a proposal by Professor Liu Peng, head of the Pushi Institute for Social Sciences on steps the government can take to solve the problem of house churches in China. We have translated the post and are presenting it in two parts. In this first part Professor Liu spells out why solving the problem is important and what he considers the foundation of a solution.
There was a big birthday celebration in China earlier this month. July 1 marked the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.
Does the Christian church require a sympathetic national government to thrive?
Religious persecution or illegal land grab? Understanding the struggles faced by the people of China, including Chinese Christians.
A look at possible responses to the new NGO law.
At a long-awaited national conference on religion, held in Beijing April 22-23, CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping outlined his vision for “helping religions adapt to the socialist society” under the direction of the Party. Here are a few prominent themes from Xi’s speech.
One of my favorite China books is The Sextants of Beijing: Global Currents in Chinese History, by Joanna Waley-Cohen. In it she chronicles China’s historical interactions with the outside world, arguing that China has never been as isolationist as historians have suggested. What the West often perceived as isolationist policies or attitudes were instead China’s insistence that authority must never be surrendered to outsiders.
In January Rev. Gu Yuese, pastor of Chongyi Church in Hangzhou, one of China’s largest churches, was removed by the Chinese Christian Council, the governing body of the Chinese Protestant Church. Often referred to as China’s first mega-church, the sanctuary seats more than 5000 people, and each Sunday sees around 10,000 people in attendance at the worship services.
Reading Cao Nanlai’s classic Constructing China’s Jerusalem in light of the highly publicized attacks on Wenzhou churches, the obvious question is whether the “Wenzhou model,” as Cao describes it, is still intact, or whether government intervention has significantly altered the formula of church growth and cultural transformation.
A ChinaSource "3 Questions" interview with Dr. Fenggang Yang, director of the Center on Religion and Chinse Society at Purdue University.
More than 35 years after Deng Xiaoping’s ascendancy to power, a sober assessment of the political implications of Deng’s reforms is much needed. China’s Political Development: Chinese and American Perspectives proposes to fill this gap by bringing together the insights of two dozen eminent scholars, twelve each from China and the United States, to address key aspects of governance reform since 1978.
A ChinaSource "3 Question" interview with Dr. Carol Lee Hamrin about China’s National Security Commission.
On July 16, the website of the Pushi Institute for Social Science published a long piece titled "Considering the Future of church-state relations in China after the 2-14-2015 Zhejiang Cross Dispute." It had originally been published in the Christian Times. It’s a rather long piece so we have decided to excerpt two parts.
As the cross demolition campaign in Zhejiang Province continues (despite earlier reports of an order to bring it to a close), Protestant and Catholic believers are beginning to push back. Last week a small group of Catholics staged a demonstration outside of the government offices in Wenzhou, calling on the government to halt the campaign.
In a recent post I wrote about the paradoxical treatment of religion in China’s Constitution. On the one hand, Article 36 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. On the other hand, the same article puts clear conditions on this freedom, making it subject to the needs of the state as defined by the Communist Party of China.
The latest episode in the government’s attack on Christian churches in Wenzhou is the drafting of regulations outlining precise limits on the size and location of religious buildings and the size and placement of crosses.
Changes on the horizon for NGOs in China.
Following more than a year of cross and church demolitions in Zhejiang Province, in May the provincial government published a draft set of regulations governing the construction and location of religious venues, as well as the placement of Christian crosses. The draft regulations were posted on the websites of two government agencies, with a request for comments from the public. One pastor in the province shared his comments with the Gospel Times, who in turn posted it on their site. It’s an interesting look at how these regulations are viewed by a Christian leader, as well a fascinating window into how the religious sphere “talks to” the state in China, employing language the state understands.
As anyone who works in or deals with China on a regular basis knows, so much of life and work operates in a gray area – that space which can often be described as “neither legal nor illegal” since there are not yet laws governing the space or activity.
That has been the situation for numerous NGOs operating in China. Absent an actual law governing foreign NGOs in China, they've operated unofficially or with local blessing or registered as commercial enterprises.
According to China Aid Association’s latest annual report, religious persecution in China more than doubled last year. The increase comes as no surprise, as 2014 was marked by a wave of attacks on church buildings, particularly in the city of Wenzhou and around the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang. The general social tightening that has come to characterize President Xi Jinping’s rule contributed to the pressure on religious believers, as did heightened tensions between the regime and ethnic minorities in Western China.
Is China’s church facing a nationwide crackdown?
It was just about one year ago that, while scrolling through my Twitter feed late one night, I spotted something about Christians in Zhejiang trying to prevent the demolition of their church building.
Christians throughout history have seen themselves engaged in a battle that is ultimately spiritual in nature. Forces arrayed against them, political or otherwise, are physical manifestations of this unseen battle, which will ultimately conclude with the return of Christ.
In Mobilized Merchants - Patriotic Martyrs, Dr. Timothy Conkling sheds much-needed light on the relationship between China's unregistered church and the Chinese Party-State. The dissertation research that forms the basis for the book set out to answer the question of why Chinese Christians are persecuted and how they respond to this persecution.
With literally hundreds of crosses falling prey to overzealous local officials in Wenzhou and neighboring cities, the region once seen as a bastion of extraordinary religious freedom is now the subject of worldwide attention due to an equally extraordinary crackdown on its churches.
As we post this issue of The Lantern, China’s top leaders have just concluded their annual Party plenum in Beijing. During this “Fourth Plenum” they gave shape to policies that will be endorsed by China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, in the spring.
This year’s attacks on church buildings in Wenzhou have been the subject of much analysis, the majority focusing on the relationship between church and government in Wenzhou. The following blog post, written by a Christian in China, and published in the mainland Christian Times, takes a closer look at the impact on the Wenzhou church itself.
For those in long-term service in China, one of the difficulties in discerning where things are headed politically and socially is knowing how to separate out significant long-term trends from those events that, while appearing important in the moment, may prove to be mere distractions. This is particularly true for those working with the church in China, who often attempt to "read the tea leaves," through the lens of religious policy and its immediate affect upon China's Christians.
Last week five members of the Almighty God cult (formerly known as Eastern Lightning went on trial for brutally murdering a woman in a MacDonalds restaurant in Zhaoyuan, Shandong Province. The murder shocked the nation and prompted the government to launch a nationwide crackdown on illegal cults, or xie jiao (lit. evil religion).
Churches have been demolished in Wenzhou, Christian workers detained on the North Korean border, and a leading religious official proclaims that a "Chinese theology" is needed so that the church can serve socialism. These developments have featured prominently in the news in recent weeks, with more than a few commentators concluding that a crackdown on Christianity in China is underway or soon will be. However, a closer look at the events in question suggests otherwise.
The rigid control structures comprising the "box" within which China's church currently operates are often assumed to be merely a function of China's Leninist political system. Were this system to be dismantled, one might argue, the "box" would come apart and China's Christians would enjoy genuine freedom of religion.
China's current policy on religion is spelled out in Central Party Document no. 19, "The Basic Viewpoint and Policy on the Religious Question during Our Country's Socialist Period," issued in March of 1982.
If you work for a foreign NGO in China and have had the feeling that it has been under a bit more scrutiny lately, it seems that you are not imagining things.
Is there religious freedom in China? The answer, of course, depends on the meaning of the term "religious freedom"
According to China Aid Association's 2013 Persecution Report, a total of 7,424 Christians were persecuted in China last year. This is not an insignificant number; 7,424 believers facing persecution is 7,424 too many. However, it is worth looking at this number a bit closer in order to put it into perspective.
In the week since the Sanjiang Church was demolished, netizens in China (both Christian and non-Christian) have taken to social media to comment on the incident.