Monday, December 5, 2016

RLPB 387. China: persecution set to escalate in 2017

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 387 | Wed 07 Dec 2016

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by Elizabeth Kendal

Since the 1980s, the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has come less from ideology than from its ability to generate wealth. Consequently, the present economic downturn poses a threat to CCP legitimacy. Analysts have forecast that 2017 will be a particularly difficult year for the CCP, as China is faced with sky-rocketing corporate debt, an increase in bankruptcies, slowing housing, construction and manufacturing sectors and now the prospect that the US will place massive tariffs on Chinese goods. Anticipating escalating social and political unrest, the CCP has been reviving ideology, bolstering its power and consolidating its control over every element of society, including China's rapidly growing Church. [See also: RLPB 379 (12 Oct)]

On 7 August 2014 China's long-disappeared, internationally acclaimed Protestant Christian human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, was released from secret 'black jail' detention. Tortured and emaciated, after three years in solitary confinement, Gao struggled to string a sentence together. As was clear to this writer at the time [see RLPB 275 (27 Aug 2014)], in releasing Gao in such a state, the CCP was sending a message that 'this is what happens to those who challenge the CCP!' More than a provocative act, it was also an experiment. If the CCP could do this to the high-profile Gao Zhisheng (52) without consequences, it could do it to anyone. Likewise, the persecution of the Church in Zhejiang, in particular in Wenzhou ('China's Jerusalem'), has been an experiment. If the CCP can remove the Cross and rein in the Church across China's Christian heartland without consequences, it can do it anywhere in China.

The CCP is cracking down on unregistered (illegal) house churches, while at the same time reining in the State-approved, registered 'Patriotic' churches. As reported in previous RLPBs, several leading CCP-recognised Protestants -- pastors with the CCP-approved Three Self Patriotic Movement and leaders in CCP-approved China Christian Council -- now languish in prison on serious corruption charges, simply for criticising the CCP's religious policy. Meanwhile, leading Christian human rights lawyers have also 'disappeared' into detention.

Cardinal Joseph Zen (84)
On Wednesday 30 November two Chinese Catholic bishops were ordained with joint Beijing-Vatican approval, indicating that CCP-Vatican rapprochement is making headway.  Cardinal Joseph Zen -- the former  Bishop of Hong Kong and the most senior Chinese cleric in the Catholic Church -- has urged the Vatican not to go through with the 'landmark agreement' that would see the Vatican recognise only those bishops already approved by the CCP-approved Catholic Patriotic Movement. Such an agreement would necessitate the Vatican severing ties with the underground Catholic Church, which Zen notes would betray the faithful and fuel repression.

There is still no word on the whereabouts of Christian human rights lawyers Zhang Kai (re-arrested on 31 August [see RLPB 377 (27 Sept)]; and Jiang Tianyong (believed to have been abducted into secret detention on 21 November) [see RLPB 386 (30 Nov)]. Furthermore, over the weekend of 26-27 November, Chinese security officers raided the Gospel Drug Treatment Church in Guangdong, which specialises in helping people with addictions free of charge, through its Christian rehabilitation centres. Many of its members are former patients whose lives have been transformed by treatment and by the Gospel. Computers and literature were seized and the church's leaders, Hong Kong residents Mr and Mrs Lin Haixin, were arrested, presumably for conducting unregistered (illegal) religious activities. Their whereabouts remain unknown.


* the ever-present Spirit of God will minister to Zhang Kai, Jiang Tianyong, Mr and Mrs Lin Haixin, and all other Christian leaders and lawyers presently languishing in Chinese prisons.

 'For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

* the Lord will grant divine wisdom to all Christian figures and Church leaders, local and foreign, seeking to engage or negotiate with the Chinese Communist Party; may their eyes be open to reality and not be deceived; may they walk in obedient faith, trusting only in the Lord.

* the Lord will continue to build his Church in China, refining her, moulding her and sanctifying her in preparation for the day of her freedom.

Pray for China: Psalm 146
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation (v3) ...
[The Lord] executes justice for the oppressed ... The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind ... but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin (from vv 7-9).


Anticipating that economic downturn will result in escalating social and political unrest, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been reviving ideology, bolstering its power and consolidating its control over every element of society. Confident it can commit extreme human rights abuses with impunity, the CCP will doubtless move to persecute the Church into submission nation-wide. Numerous Christian leaders are already in prison, mostly on bogus corruption charges. There is still no word on the whereabouts of Christian human rights lawyers Zhang Kai (re-arrested on 31 August) and Jiang Tianyong (abducted on 21 November). Meanwhile, Hong Kong residents Mr and Mrs Lin Haixin were arrested in late November for running an unregistered Christian rehabilitation ministry in Guangdong. Their whereabouts are unknown. Please pray for China and its Church.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).