ICC Note: In this insightful article, UCA News explores the efforts being made by China’s government to monitor and control the rapid growth of Christianity within its borders. It’s now believed that as many as 40 million Chinese citizens are employed to report on their fellow citizens to the government, including reports of activities by Catholics and Protestants who worship outside of the confines of the government controlled Christian organizations.
4/21/2014 China (UCANews) – Persecution comes in all shapes and sizes in China and has for a long time. It has ranged from full scale, murderous pogroms against Christians and other religious groups to the slow water torture perfected by the Chinese as a method of extracting information and forcing compliance. It still has its variants, even if today’s practitioners don’t use water.
No publically identified Christian or member of any religious association is allowed any space to act independently. Every word and action is closely watched. As Bishop Louis Jin, who died almost exactly a year ago on April 27, was fond of saying: “Nothing can happen in China without two groups knowing – the Holy Trinity and the Communist Party.” For this reason he favored complete openness. Any attempt at secrecy would always be undone.
Today, China’s administrative bureaucracy overseeing the “orderly conduct of life” is double the size it was 20 years ago. Following the predictable but profoundly disturbing (to the Communist Party) calls for democracy in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the number of people supervising the Chinese public has risen from 20 million to 40 million. And only last week, on April 16, President Xi Jinping chaired the first meeting of a new committee with plenipotentiary powers to maintain internal and external security, reporting not through government channels but directly to the Politburo.
This committee allows the president to exercise unprecedented, direct power over all aspects of the internal life and external relations of China. He has as much influence through this and other means as the creator of contemporary China, Deng Xiaoping. And he now appears to have the levers of power over people matched only by the founder of modern China, Mao Zedong. These constraints feed into an already well controlled environment. Even in a would-be cosmopolitan metropolis like Shanghai, Party controls range from the house arrest of the local bishop to ordinary local Catholics being prevented from attending international Catholic meetings because they have a “form” at the local Religious Affairs Bureau. Every move is noted and reported. These efforts are a bit like the boy with his finger in the dyke trying to prevent the deluge: how long can the apparatus of surveillance, constraint and control be maintained? Signs that the creaking system is straining to hold together abound.
For instance, as ucanews.com reported, thousands of Christians in Eastern China are rallying to protect their churches from invasion and destruction by government officials concerned that Christianity is growing too fast and in an “unsustainable” way in China. In one case, communities camped out overnight to protect their church, fearing that if they did not keep watch, the bulldozers would move in under cover of darkness. Protestant communities in Beijing especially – both authorized and “underground” – are constant targets of scrutiny. Last week, the Chinese government banned any news on the third anniversary of the Shouwang Church, an influential underground church in Beijing that had been forced onto the streets.