Tuesday, November 10, 2015

RLPB 335. China: Repression and Censorship; Xi and Mao.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 335 | Wed 11 Nov 2015

-- Includes updates on Assyrian captives, and Aleppo crisis.
By Elizabeth Kendal

Zan Aizong (SCMP)
On Tuesday 3 November officers from China's National Security Bureau raided the home of Zan Aizong, a Christian Zhejiang-based writer and member of the Chinese Independent Pen Centre. A former reporter and Zhejiang consultant for China Ocean News, Zan Aizong has been blogging on religious freedom and cross demolitions in the coastal province of Zhejiang, critical of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policy. Zan was temporarily detained, questioned, intimidated and threatened. 'Please ask for the Lord's mercy,' he wrote upon returning home. 'Today, I was accused on suspicion of subverting national security [an extremely serious charge], and my cell phone, computer, etc., were confiscated. After this matter was recorded, I was free to go home for the time being, but I cannot speak and I cannot post on WeChat again. I would like to thank Jesus Christ for his grace and help ... I do not have any hatred towards any person ...' Zan Aizong is in a very delicate and dangerous position -- as it seems are all who dare criticise CCP policy these days.

Zhang Kai (centre) (RFA)
Meanwhile, Zhang Kai, the Christian attorney who was providing legal counsel to churches in Zhejiang, remains 'disappeared' [see RLPB 325]. He is one of an estimated twenty Christians from Wenzhou and Jinhua (two cities in Zhejiang) to have been taken into China's 'black jails' since 25 August -- and certainly the most high profile. Black jails are secret prisons in unknown locations where high value prisoners are interrogated, abused and tortured while denied access to family, a lawyer or medical care.  On 4 November the family of Zhang Liumao, a human rights activist in the southern province of Guangdong, was informed of his death in custody. According to the CCP mouthpiece, Xinhua, Zhang Liumao was one of seven members of a 'shadow army' plotting 'sabotage activities' against the state. Allegedly their plan was to 'overthrow the current system through armed rebellion to walk the path of a "democratic constitution".' According to Xinhua, Zhang Liumao was 'the explosive expert in the group,' and had 'nasopharyngeal cancer as a result of long-term exposure to chemicals'. Xinhua claims that Liumao 'showed no symptoms during detention until 11 October' and died on 4 November due to a 'massive hemorrhage after treatments failed'. In reality, Zhang Liumao's activities involved publishing a literary magazine funded by the US government. Liumao had been arrested in the crackdown on 15 August and charged with 'creating a disturbance'. Zhang Liumao's family has not been allowed to see his body and it is suspected he was tortured to death. This is the China of President Xi Jinping. China's detained Christians need our prayers!

Pray for President Xi Jinping
and First Lady Peng Liyuan.
President Xi Jinping is what is known as a 'princeling', a descendant of one of the Chinese Communist Party's founding fathers.  As noted by China analyst Willy Lam, Xi has 'masterminded a pronounced shift to conservative ideals that are reminiscent of the Mao Zedong era'. Having openly called for the CCP to 'attain the goal of Communism', Xi is escalating repression at an alarming rate, tightening the noose around writers, lawyers, artists, churches and banning party members from criticising CCP policy. In the spirit of Lenin and Mao, Xi is seeking to have art, literature, media and religion (in reality, everything) serve the CCP. At a symposium on arts and culture in mid-October, Xi told a gathering of artists, actors and writers, that art does not exist for art's sake; rather it should serve socialism and the people and be consistent with Marxist-Leninist thinking. China's First Lady, Pang Liyuan (a former singer and actress) is leading the way by reviving Mao Zedong's favourite musical, the pro-revolution 'White-Haired Girl'. Essentially, all elements of society are expected to unite behind the Communist program.

Under Xi, China is taking a big step backwards. Committed to reviving Maoist ideology, Xi is moving to take control of what the Chinese people hear, read, say and see. Censorship is on the rise. And what is the cross removal campaign in Zhejiang if it is not essentially a campaign of censorship? The CCP might be able to stop Chinese citizens seeing the cross, but how will they stop them hearing of it? The situation in China could get much worse yet.


* the God of the cross will redeem this campaign of censorship against the cross so it might actually generate interest in the cross; may Christ continue to build his Church in China.

* the Spirit of God will give divine wisdom and guidance to all Christian artists, writers, lawyers and church workers who risk serious punishment if they criticise CCP policy. 'If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.' (James 1:5 ESV)

* the Lord will have mercy on Zhang Kai and all the believers in Chinese prisons and secret 'black jails'. May the Lord's presence be palpable (Romans 8:31-39); may his strength and comfort be sustaining (Isaiah 40:28-31); may he set the prisoners free (Psalm 146).

* just as the Lord redeemed the evil of the Tiananmen Square massacre (4 June 1989) to generate criticism of CCP repression and arouse a wave of interest in Christianity, may he likewise redeem today's escalating repression to generate a whole new wave of interest in the life- and nation-transforming truth of God's word.

'Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.' (Daniel 2:20 ESV)

~ ~ ~ ~

UPDATES TO RLPB 333, October Update (27 Oct)
ASSYRIAN CAPTIVES: thank God that on 7 November, IS released 37 frail and elderly Assyrian captives from Hasakah. Please continue to uphold the remaining captives, and pray for their release.
ALEPPO CRISIS: thank God that on 4 November, with the aid of Russian air cover, Syrian and allied forces regained control (from IS) of the Khanaser-Ethyra highway into government-held eastern Aleppo. Please continue to pray for Syria's Christians.

~ ~ ~ ~


China's President Xi Jinping has called for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to 'attain the goal of Communism'. Following Chairman Mao's policies, Xi wants all elements of society -- particularly the arts and religion -- to serve the CCP. Criticism of CCP policy is becoming increasingly dangerous. On 3 November Zhejiang-based Christian writer Zan Aizong was detained temporarily, questioned, intimidated and threatened.  He had been blogging on the programme of removal of crosses from roofs of churches in Zhejiang. Meanwhile, Zhang Kai, the Christian attorney who was providing legal advice to churches in Zhejiang, remains 'disappeared', having been incarcerated in a secret 'black jail'. On 4 November one of the human rights activists arrested in the August crackdown died in captivity. Please pray for China and for the Chinese Church.


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