CHINA – HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE
“The People’s Republic of China, in Asia, is comprised of 31 Provinces, Regions and Municipalities. Hong Kong and Macau are integral parts of China and Taiwan’s status is debated. China is the world’s second-largest economy and the largest holder of foreign exchange reserves. There remains a tight state control over most sectors of society including repression of minorities and dissidents, systemic violations of the rights to privacy and expression, and a harsh penal code. Many social ills face China such as corruption, social and health needs, and environmental pollution. The country was struck with devastating earthquakes in 2008 and 2010.The population of China exceeds 1.3 billion and the official language is Mandarin Chinese (spoken by 70%) with estimated 600 different Han dialects. There are 55 “nationalities” officially recognized but there are close to 500 indigenous distinct ethnic groups.” 1
Historically, the government has been hostile towards religion in general.
The Chinese government has made life very difficult for Christians who have sought to worship God freely in house congregations of their own choice and not in state-run churches. For example, pastors of some Chinese house churches are required to submit weekly reports that disclose their where-abouts and tell how many people attend their meetings. If a pastor plans to leave his city, he must report his travel plans and he is restricted to short trips. One infringement on freedom of religion has been the Chinese government's harassing of Beijing's Shouwang Church. This 1000-member congregation includes both the educated and uneducated, affluent business people and students. The Church has had much difficulty in securing a place to hold their meetings. On April 10, 2011, the Church stepped out to hold an outdoor public meeting and security officers arrested 160 worshippers. Two weeks later, they prevented worshippers from gathering for an Easter Sunday service. There are many Chinese Christians in jail for simply practising their faith. On September 13, 2009, 400 government officials, together with hired thugs, rushed down upon the Fushan Church's property and demolished over a dozen buildings. The raid saw twenty believers seriously injured and, later, Christians who reported on the incident were detained. Because of the negative attention that came out of this incident, Chinese officials did agree to pay some damages to the Linfen Church. However, when they refused to release those they had detained the Church refused to accept the money. The head pastor, Yang Rongli, and six others were arrested and this was followed by more arrests. It was ruled that the five pastors were guilty of occupying farm land illegally and disturbing the traffic order. Pastor Yang Rongli and Pastor Wang Xiaoguang are still detained. Rongli is scheduled to be released in 2017. Accounts, such as this, are only a few examples of China's mistreatment of Christian believers. Aiqing Zhu was arrested at forty years of age for “illegal evangelistic activities” and on June 9, 1996, she was sentenced to twenty years in prison. Journalist, Li Ying is serving a fifteen-year prison sentence for participating in the publication of a Christian magazine. Originally, she was sentenced to death but the consequence was lessened. She is not permitted to have a Bible and she is made to work 15-hour days. In 2002, Mr. Hu Ying and Xu Fuming, leaders in a church in southern China, were sentenced to life in prison. In 2002, Chi Famin was given a ten-year sentence for simply being a member of a particular church. Pastor Zahang Rongliang was given a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence in 2004, after already serving twelve years in prison for his faith, spread over five separate detentions. He has endured torture which has included electric shocks. In January of 2008, Alimujiang Yimiti was arrested on charges of endangering national security and subverting the national government, a felony punishable by death in China. Because there was insufficient evidence to condemn him, he did not receive this
sentence but was given a 15-year prison sentence. These, again, are only a few of the many cases of Christians who have been unjustly arrested and still many remain detained, simply for practising their faith.
Pray for Chinese Christians who suffer daily and are forbidden freedom. Pray for the Christians in China, that they would be able to forgive their persecutors. It is challenging for any of us to forgive the smallest acts of injustice perpetrated upon us. How much more challenging would it be to forgive horrific human rights atrocities perpetrated upon oneself or one's family. Yet, Jesus Christ forgave even to this extent. Of Jesus we read that as He was being crucified; ''Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots." (Luke 23.34 KJV). To follow Jesus in this kind of forgiveness is the greatest witness that a Christian can show to an unbelieving world. Forgiveness can be given and, still, with it a call for human rights reforms.
What has China's relationship been with Canada and what is that relationship today? When the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, Canada, as a free democratic nation, was united with other Western Bloc countries in refusing to recognize China's new communist government. Canadian armed forces even fought against Chinese forces in the Korean war. However, Canada's resistance towards communist China was broken in 1968 when Liberal Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, initiated relations which led to the establishment of diplomatic relations in October 13, 1970. Since then there has been much communication, trade and commerce between our countries. Canada's friendship and partnership with China was greatly increased under the Liberal governments of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. Prime Minister Paul Martin and Chinese President Hu Jintao announced a “strategic partnership” and claimed that they would double trade within five years. After Conservative leader, Stephen Harper, became prime minister, China-Canada relations were stressed. Harper took a strong stand on human rights and called for the Chinese government to make changes. The Conservative government awarded honorary Canadian citizenship to the Dalai Lama, accused China of commercial espionage and openly criticized China for its human rights abuses. Harper also did not attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics held in Beijing. However, economic pressure has resulted in Canada, once again, partnering with China economically. Since 2003, China has been Canada's second-largest trading partner.
Heavy-handed oppression from the communist government of China upon Christian believers calls for a response of empathy for this vulnerable minority. Such convictions are unfair and cruel. They are intended to sever relationships, demean one's dignity, inflict shame and crush the believer's sense of hope. They intend to make miserable the innocent lives of public Christians. This calls for an outcry on the part of those of us who have the freedom to speak and write of their victimization. I encourage readers to write to their members of Parliament and make known the sufferings of Chinese imprisoned Christians and call for our government to take steps to exercise diplomatic pressure on the Chinese government to secure their release.
Public pressure can once again stir the conscience of Canadian leaders to apply pressure on China's government. What can the Canadian government do for suffering Christians in its relationship with China? There is much that can be done. First of all, Canadian diplomats can confront Chinese authorities on specific cases of human rights abuse, including the imprisonment of Christians who are suffering for their faith. Secondly, the government can apply a variety of different types of sanctions to show that it is serious about seeing China change in its treatment of religious freedom. At an early stage, sports sanctions would prevent the sports teams of our countries from competing in international events. Diplomatic sanctions may include the limitation or cancellation of high-level government visits or the expelling of diplomatic staff. Economic sanctions can come in the form of tariffs, import duties, trade barriers and import or export quotas. Each of these measures can be applied to governments like China in varying and progressive degrees to show that Canada is serious about human rights and that we expect this value to be shared by other nations that we do business with.
Donna Siemens. zionchristianministry.com International Page.
Mandryk, Jason. Operation World. Colorado Springs: Biblica Publishing, 2010
Siemens, Donna. zionchristianministry.com International Page.
Scripture taken from the King James Version.