China has for many years been attempting to portray itself as an increasingly capitalistic and liberalized nation, and it has received plenty of assistance in that regard from a compliant Hollywood, liberal media and the giant technology firms in America — so much so that some people seem to forget that China largely remains an oppressive communist society.
Also seemingly forgotten by some in the West with respect to China is that, as is true in virtually all communist societies, individual religious beliefs are typically supplanted by the forced worship of the socialist state, and those who continue to worship God can expect to be oppressed, or worse, by the heavy hand of that same state.
CBN News reported this week that the Chinese government, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, has been increasingly cracking down in brutal fashion on “human rights, religious freedom and freedom of expression,” particularly with regard to Christians in China, who are said to be “standing in the way” of Xi’s increasingly totalitarian regime.
Even Human Rights Watch — no big fans of organized religion or Christianity — recently reported on the arrest of a prominent Christian pastor in China named Wang Yi, as well as many members of his church, not to mention the seizure of church property.
Though Christians appear to be bearing the brunt of the Chinese oppression, they sadly are not alone, as the government is also cracking down on Buddhists and Muslims in certain areas on China’s frontiers.
Human Rights Watch also reported that Xi’s government “has further tightened control over Christianity in its broad efforts to ‘Sinicize’ religion or ‘adopt Chinese characteristics’ — in other words, to ensure that religious groups support the government and the Communist Party.”
That means keeping surveillance on Christian communities, evicting congregations and destroying churches and Christian symbols, even banning and confiscating Bibles.
CBN noted that the Christian pastor Wang Yi, along with his wife and about 100 members of the congregation of his Early Rain Covenant Church, were arrested by Chinese authorities on Dec. 9. The church was shut down and Wang was accused of “inciting subversion of state power.”
That charge of “subversion of state power” was described to CBN by Ian Johnson, an expert on Christianity in China as well as personal friend of Wang, as “a catchall charge often used against dissidents and political activists who speak out against the government.” He added that both Wang and his wife could face up to 15 years in prison.
It is worth noting that, in light of the communist government’s longstanding opposition to Christianity, the Early Rain church and many others like it are part of an exploding movement of underground “house churches” that signified the incredible growth of Christianity in the officially atheistic nation, a movement the government would like nothing better than to stomp out.
“And that’s the exciting thing, all across China, there are house churches, there are what they call ‘family churches’ and the reason the Communist government is so worried is because there are far more Christians in China than there are members of the Communist Party,” said Todd Nettleton, of the nonprofit group Voice of the Martyrs, in an appearance on CBN.
He added, “This crackdown, I think, is a direct response to the fear of the Communist Party leaders who see the church growing way faster than the party is.”
That speculation was echoed by an expert on religion in China named Yang Fenggang, who explained that the crackdown on Christianity began small several years ago in isolated regions but has since grown into a nationwide war against the growing religious movement.
Yang, who once predicted that China would eventually become the most populous Christian nation, warned, “Christians are the remaining NGO’s (non-governmental organization) in the shrinking civil society in China.”
“Under Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party, they are really trying to establish a totalitarian rule of Chinese society and the Christians are standing in the way of totalitarianism, so that’s why they’ve become a target,” he added.
For his part, Pastor Wang seemed to know that he would eventually be arrested and had prepared ahead of time a public letter to be released if that eventuality ever occurred.
His letter made clear that he stood opposed to the government persecution of Christians, and that no matter happened to him or his congregants, the growing movement in China would not be stopped by the government’s heavy-handed tactics.
China may try to portray itself as a more liberalized nation these days, and its government may even get an assist from cowed liberals in the West, but the fact remains that China is still an oppressive communist regime that brutally suppresses religious expressions — especially that of Christians — that run counter to the communist worship of the authoritarian state.
President Donald Trump needs to address this incredibly concerning persecution of Christians in China the next time he speaks with President Xi, even if doing so may upset the delicate trade negotiations that are ongoing.
Freedom of religious expression is a fundamental human right that all nations should respect — even totalitarian regimes — if they wish to continue to be included on the global stage as a respected member of the world body.
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