Tuesday, March 19, 2013

RLPB 202. China: new leadership and promised reform

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 202 | Wed 20 Mar 2013

By Elizabeth Kendal

The first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), held in the Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing, concluded on Sunday 17 March and, with it, the once-a-decade transfer of power. Named as Communist Party general secretary in November 2012, Xi Jinping has been installed as president of the People's Republic of China and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC). Communist Party deputy leader Li Keqiang has been installed as Premier. In his address to the Congress, President Xi spoke much of the 'Chinese dream'. Promising to deliver national rejuvenation, he called on China's 1.37 billion citizens to 'unite as one, and gather into an invincible force with wisdom and power'. He said the Chinese dream must be realised in the Chinese way through a fostering of the Chinese spirit. What this actually means remains to be seen, although Xi seems to have established that unity or conformity of thought and purpose be the means if not the goal. Steve Tsang, an expert in Chinese politics at Britain's University of Nottingham, believes that Xi's over-riding priority is 'whatever it takes to keep the show on, the party in power and (make) China more powerful and influential'. (AAP 18 March)

CNN Interactive: China's New Leaders.

On 7 January 2013 Meng Jianzhu, China's most senior law enforcement official, hinted on CCTV's Sina Weibo that China may abolish the controversial system of 're-education through labour' established by Mao in the 1950s. However, the posting was quickly deleted and replaced with one saying that the system would be 'reformed' (as distinct from abolished). 'Re-education through labour' is a system of 'administrative discipline': no charges or trial are necessary. Anybody local police consider a problem -- whistle-blowers, protesters, political or religious dissidents -- they may sentence to up to three years of 're-education through labour'. Modelled on the Soviet gulag, China's network of labour camps is known as the 'laogai'.  Conditions are appalling, with prisoners working long hours in unsafe conditions, subject to cruel, brutal and inhumane treatment (see: NTDTV video report). Whilst the government maintains that 190,000 prisoners are detained in some 320 prison labour camps, expert and laogai survivor Harry Wu has documented the existence of nearly 1000 camps housing up to five million prisoners. (AAP and http://www.laogai.org)

Generally the labour camps have both a prison name and an industry name. For example: Huasham Prison is also Huashan Farm; Hegang Prison is also Qingshishan Stone Quarry; Qingyuan Prison is Shanhe Sulphur Iron Mine; Yingde Prison is Yingde Tea Farm; Quanzhou Prison is Quanzhou Shenghua Knit Clothing Factory; and so on (laogai handbook). Indeed the laogai gives 'Made in China' a whole new meaning.   Considering that laogai slave-labour forms an integral part of the Chinese economy, abolition of the laogai is unlikely while the Communists are in power. Consequently, most analysts believe any reforms will be purely cosmetic and that problematic dissidents may instead 'disappear' into secret prisons while the laogai will be reserved for certified criminals, of which there will be many more. Reforms might mean that house-church Christians, whose meetings and ministries are illegal, will have to be charged, tried in the courts and incarcerated as criminals rather than just thrown into the laogai on administrative sentences for 're-education through labour'. What impact this has on persecution remains to be seen.

Corrupt local officials have long used the system to silence those who dare speak out against corruption, repression, cruelty and injustice. Increasingly, however, corruption, repression, cruelty and injustice are being exposed -- and as knowledge spreads, discontent rises. Sensing this, Beijing's new leaders will be keen to pacify the masses by convincing them that their concerns are being addressed, even if they are not! Zhong Weiguang, a researcher based in Germany believes, 'The form and name of re-education through labour might be removed, because it doesn't look good. But their goals, their control, monitoring, intimidation, and persecution of the people under the dictatorial rule of the Party will be the same.'


* make himself known to China's new leadership team -- especially President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang -- so that even if they reject him, it will not be because they have not heard the truth or seen the living God in action.

* shine his light on the Chinese legal system, especially the corruption and injustice of the 're-education through labour' system of administrative discipline, and the cruel and inhumane state-run slave-labour in the laogai; may it reach into the darkest corners and deepest shadows behind China's facade of progress and development.  'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' (John 1:5 ESV)

* continue to bless and build his Church in China, in numbers as well as in grace, knowledge and fortitude, preparing her for the day when she is free to witness openly across the whole nation and the wider region. 'Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.' (Psalm 17:8 ESV)


Over 16-17 March Communist Party chief Xi Jinping was installed as President of the People's Republic of China, and Communist Party deputy leader Li Keqiang became Premier. For consideration in 2013 is reform of the 're-education through labour' system. Established by Mao in the 1950s, it is designed to silence 'counter-revolutionaries' while exploiting them as slave-labourers. This 'laoagi', China's network of labour camps, is modelled on the Soviet gulag. Local authorities have long used this system of detention without trial to silence anybody who dares protest corruption or injustice. House-church Christians are routinely incarcerated there. Whilst genuine reform is unlikely, the attention it will get could expose the reality of injustice and lack of liberty in China. Please pray for China, its leaders and the Church.



In the evening of 23 February Christians were mingling after a funeral in Kaduna when they were attacked by some 10 black-clad gunmen. Speaking a Fulani (Muslim) dialect and firing sophisticated weapons, they terrorised the believers for three hours before police arrived. Five Christians from five different churches were killed. Eleven of the wounded were hospitalised, some with critical injuries. Then on 18 March at least 20 people were killed and more than 50 wounded when terrorists struck a bus station in Kano's Sabongari district. Sabongari is home to a large population of Christians from the south and the targeted bus station primarily services southerners heading south. Suicide bombers reportedly rammed their explosive-laden car into one bus creating a massive explosion and inferno which spread quickly to another four buses, setting off improvised explosive devices previously planted. The death toll is expected to rise. It is the second time this bus station has been attacked. Boko Haram is suspected. Please pray for the Church in Nigeria.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)