Tuesday, July 14, 2015

RLPB 318. CHINA: Legitimising Persecution

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 318 | Wed 15 Jul 2015

By Elizabeth Kendal

On 1 July 2015 the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People's Congress (a de facto legislative body) passed a new National Security Law (154 votes for; 1 abstention). The text is purposely vague to allow the broadest possible interpretation. The Australian Financial Review described it as "a dense 6,900 characters of party-speak, with little in the way of detail (not even any specific punishments), but plenty of obligations such as to 'defend the fundamental interests of the people' and take 'all measures necessary' to protect the country." Critically, the National Security Law obliges citizens to report any perceived threat.

President Xi Jinping (SCMP)
The law is one of five new laws (most still in draft form) covering national security, anti-espionage, counter terrorism, cyber security and foreign NGOs. Altogether they will enable President Xi Jinping and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to exercise full control over the security sector. Dr Eva Pils, a China law expert at King's College, University of London, believes the national security law "manifests a neo-totalitarian ambition to reach into every sector of society". Maya Wang, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch, expressed concern that the law "includes elements that define criticism of the government as a form of subversion". As prominent Chinese lawyer Teng Biao, who has been imprisoned in China for human rights activism but is now a fellow at Harvard Law School, explains, "For the Communist Party, the rule of law means using legislation as a tool of control."

CONTEXT: Originally the CCP got its legitimacy through its ideology. But Maoism failed, and since the 1980s the CCP has been getting its legitimacy from its ability to generate prosperity. After assuming the presidency, President Xi moved quickly to eliminate his political opposition, which he did through an anti-corruption campaign.
As the economy now takes a downturn, he is moving to further protect himself and the ruling CCP while establishing that the government's legitimacy comes from its ability to guarantee harmony, stability and national security. It must be noted, however, that the CCP regards 'national security' as synonymous with total CCP control.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY:  As China Aid rightly notes, the National Security Law [text] will impact religious liberty.  Article 27 of the new law provides guidelines for "religious belief and regular religious activities", warning that the government will punish all who exploit religion to "conduct illegal and criminal activities that endanger national security". It also mandates that all religious activity be "normal" (i.e. CCP compliant), adding that any group the CCP deems a "cult" will be shut down and punished. The law also confirms that the State "opposes foreign influences' interference with domestic religious affairs". Furthermore, Article 11 extends the law to 'compatriots from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan", meaning Christians from those regions could be arrested if they travel into mainland China if the CCP deems they have breached the law. The very day the law was passed (1 July) Hong Kong Pastor Wu Xiaohe was summoned by the Religious Affairs Bureau in Futian District, Shanshen, China, where he received a notice demanding he cease advertising his training courses to mainland Chinese Christians.
Cross removed on 18 June 2015
(report: CAA)
Doubtless the National Security Law will be used to legitimise persecution and repression. Unfortunately, persecuted Christians might have difficulties finding human rights lawyers to defend them.

Over the weekend of 11-12 July Chinese police launched a massive crackdown on human rights lawyers across 19 regions. As of Monday 13 July, 114 lawyers, law firm staff and human rights activists had been detained, arrested, held incommunicado, summonsed or had their freedom temporarily restricted. By Tuesday evening the number had risen to 159. The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (CHRLCG) is closely monitoring the situation. In an article entitled "Uncovering the dark story of 'rights defence'", the CCP described the crackdown as a nationwide operation "to smash a major criminal gang". According to the South China Morning Post, it seems the lawyers all have some connection to the Beijing Fengrui law firm, which the CCP accuses of "colluding with petitioners to disturb social order and to reach their goals with ulterior motives". Some of those detained or harassed had merely signed a protest letter condemning the criminal detention of the Beijing Fengrui law firm's director, along with his assistant and four lawyers. The CCP accuses the firm of masterminding many plots in the name of "rights defence, justice and public interest".  According to the Financial Times, "All of the lawyers and activists involved have taken on cases involving free speech, human rights or abuse of state power. Some had taken on religious cases, including the demolition of Christian house churches or defending followers of the banned Falun Gong sect."


* grace China's Christians, churches and other Christian institutions with divine wisdom and insight, so they might navigate and respond to the evolving legal situation.

'Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.' (Psalm 119:105 ESV) 'Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.' (Psalm 143:8b ESV)

* fortify China's Christians, churches and other Christian institutions with faith for endurance as persecution and repression escalate.

* bless China's courageous human rights lawyers who risk their life and liberty to defend the rights of the oppressed, persecuted and downtrodden; may those who are not Christians seek and find God through their trials; may those who are Christians trust in the Lord.

* continue his wonderful work in China, building and sanctifying his Church; may the Lord redeem all hardship and suffering to increase faith and grace in believers, and to forge unity and co-operation amongst the churches.

PLEASE ALSO CONTINUE TO PRAY through Ramadan for Christians at risk of Ramadan violence. [See RLPB 317 (8 July)]


On 1 July 2015 the Chinese government passed a new National Security Law. The text is purposely vague to allow the broadest interpretation. Religious liberty will be impacted. According to Article 27, the State will not allow religion to be exploited for 'illegal and criminal activities that endanger national security', i.e. any activity not approved by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Groups deemed to be 'cults' will be banned and punished and the State will reject all foreign 'interference' with domestic religious affairs. Over the weekend 11-12 July 114 human rights lawyers and activists were either detained or harassed and intimidated. As President Xi and the CCP consolidate their power, they will doubtless use this law to legitimise escalating repression and persecution. Please pray for China and its Church.


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