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News stories on the regulation of Christianity in China

Reportages de presse concernant la rŽgulation du Christianisme en Chine

 

 

En Chine, arrestation Ç prŽventive È de lՎvque coadjuteur de Wenzhou

G.V. avec AsiaNews, le 12/09/2016 ˆ 16h17

ƒvque coadjuteur du diocse de Wenzhou, Mgr Pierre Shao Shumin aurait dž succŽder ˆ lՎvque, Mgr Zhu Weifang, aprs le dŽcs de ce dernier, le 7 septembre. Il en a ŽtŽ empchŽ par les autoritŽs, qui lÕont arrtŽ et emmenŽ hors du diocse.

Mgr Pierre Shao Zhumin, Žvque coadjuteur du diocse de Wenzhou, sur la c™te ouest chinoise, aurait ŽtŽ arrtŽ par les autoritŽs chinoises, selon lÕagence de presse Asia News.

Le but de cet enlvement, selon les sources locales de lÕagence catholique: empcher Mgr Zhumin de prendre la tte du diocse, comme le prŽvoit le droit canonique, aprs le dŽcs du prŽcŽdent Žvque de Wenzhou, Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang. Ce dernier est dŽcŽdŽ le 7 septembre ˆ lՉge de 90 ans. Mais alors quÕil Žtait reconnu par le gouvernement chinois, lՎvque coadjuteur, lui, ne lՎtait que par Rome.

LÕenlvement remonterait au 23 aožt. Mgr Shao Zhumin aurait ŽtŽ emmenŽ hors de son diocse, ainsi que son secrŽtaire particulier, qui est Žgalement chancelier. Une opŽration Ç prŽventive È, selon un prtre sur place, les autoritŽs ayant prŽsumŽ du dŽcs imminent de Mgr Zhu, qui souffrait dÕun cancer.

Son successeur sera ainsi empchŽ de prŽsider les funŽrailles de Mgr Zhu, prŽvues mardi 13 septembre. La police locale a par ailleurs limitŽ ˆ 400 le nombre de participants ˆ cette cŽrŽmonie, qui devront prŽsenter des autorisations spŽciales.

Wenzhou, la Ç JŽrusalem chinoise È

La communautŽ catholique de Wenzhou, lÕune des plus importantes de Chine, compte environ 120 000 fidles et 70 prtres selon AsiaNews. Mais elle est aussi divisŽe entre membres de lՃglise Ç officielle È, reconnue par le gouvernement chinois, et membres de lՃglise clandestine, dite Ç souterraine È, dont Mgr Shao sÕoccupe.

Avant dՐtre reconnu par le gouvernement chinois, Mgr Zhu avait lui-mme ŽtŽ internŽ dans un camp de travail pendant seize ans lors de la RŽvolution culturelle, puis emprisonnŽ ˆ nouveau entre 1982 et 1988.

La province de Wenzhou, parfois surnommŽe la Ç JŽrusalem chinoise È en raison du nombre de lieux de culte qui sÕy trouvent, est la cible rŽcurrente de la rŽpression gouvernementale. CÕest dans cette rŽgion quÕavait ŽtŽ menŽe, fin 2014, une campagne de destructions de croix et dՎglises chrŽtiennes. La mme annŽe, il y avait ŽtŽ interdit de fter No‘l dans les Žcoles, quelques mois aprs la dŽmolition dÕun temple protestant jugŽ Ç illŽgal È par les autoritŽs.

 

Chine : un pasteur emprisonnŽ rel‰chŽ dans le Zhejiang

LÕObservatoire de la Chrstianophobie

Source : China Aid, 9 septembre

Wen Xiaowu, pasteur dÕune Žglise domestique de RuiÕan (Zhejiang), avait ŽtŽ arrtŽ par le police le 25 avril dernier au motif quÕil avait rencontrŽ des diplomates du consulat des ƒtats-Unis et des journalistes Žtrangers. Le surlendemain, il Žtait inculpŽ de Ç provocation ˆ des attroupements en vue de troubler lÕordre public È et incarcŽrŽ. Il a ŽtŽ libŽrŽ le 8 septembre aprs quatre mois dÕemprisonnement, mais est, toutefois, assignŽ ˆ rŽsidence pour une durŽe de six mois. LÕONG Žtatsunienne de dŽfense des chrŽtiens persŽcutŽs en Chine communiste, China Aid, estime que sa libŽration anticipŽe est due ˆ Ç la pression constante, dŽterminŽe et de haut niveau È subie par les autoritŽs de la part dÕorganisations internationales.

 

 

CHINE : vive tensions aprs le dŽcs de lՃvque de Wenzhou

Le 8 septembre 2016

Depuis le dŽcs de Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, Žvque de Wenzhou dans la province du Zhejiang le 7 septembre 2016, la pression monte contre la communautŽ catholique Çclandestine È.

La police chinoise multiplie les mises en garde et les arrestations avant les obsques de Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, dŽcŽdŽ le 7 septembreˆ 90 ans, qui devraient avoir lieu le 13 septembre prochain. On reste sans nouvelles de Mgr Shao Zhumin qui a ŽtŽ nommŽ en 2007 par Rome Žvque coadjuteur du lieu et qui doit prendre la succession de Mgr Zhu.

En effet, Mgr Shao Zhumin a Ç disparu È depuis le 23 aožt dernier. On peut penser quÕil a ŽtŽ placŽ au secret par les autoritŽs pour lÕempcher de prŽsider la messe de funŽrailles de Mgr Zhu, une prŽsence qui marquerait aux yeux de tous son autoritŽ sur lÕensemble du diocse. Outre Mgr Shao, le P. Paul Jiang Sunian, chancelier Ç clandestin È du diocse, et un autre prtre ont eux aussi Ç disparu È.

Des obsques sous haute surveillance

Depuis lÕannonce du dŽcs de Mgr Zhu, des prtres de la partie Ç clandestine È du diocse ont  ŽtŽ interpellŽs. DÕautres ont reu des coups de tŽlŽphone leur intimant lÕordre de ne pas assister aux obsques de Mgr Zhu, mardi prochain.

Les autoritŽs ont annoncŽ que lÕassistance aux funŽrailles sera limitŽe ˆ quatre cents personnes. Selon une source dÕinformation locale, Ç mme les prtres Ç officiels È doivent obtenir une autorisation spŽciale pour se rendre ˆ MaÕao, le village natal de lՎvque, o sa dŽpouille a ŽtŽ dŽposŽe dans une chapelle ardente È.

Ce climat de tension reflte la situation particulirement complexe de lՃglise en Chine, une tension sans doute aggravŽe par le fait que cette actualitŽ se dŽroule ˆ Wenzhou, ville o la prŽsence chrŽtienne, protestante et catholique, est notablement importante et qui sÕest trouvŽe au centre de la campagne dÕabattage des croix placŽes au sommet des Ždifices religieux menŽe par les autoritŽs depuis fin 2013 jusquÕau printemps 2016.

 

Un Žvque Ç officiel È et indocile

NŽ le 10 dŽcembre 1927 dans un district voisin de Wenzhou, Zhu Weifang a ŽtŽ ordonnŽ prtre en octobre 1954, cinq ans aprs la prise du pouvoir par Mao Zedong. EmportŽ par la persŽcution qui prŽpare la mise en place de lÕAssociation patriotique des catholiques chinois, il est condamnŽ ˆ la rŽŽducation par le travail et passe prs de seize ans en camps, de 1955 ˆ 1971. Il retournera en prison de 1982 ˆ 1988 avant de recouvrer la libertŽ et de poursuivre son ministre de prtre.

Mme si Mgr Zhu appartenait ˆ la partie Ç officielle È du diocse il pouvait se montrer indocile envers le pouvoir. En juillet 2015, afin de protester contre la campagne dÕabattage des croix, le vieil Žvque avait publiŽ, avec 26 de ses prtres, une lettre ouverte pour appeler Çles catholiques chinois et toutes les personnes animŽes par un sens de la justice ˆ ne pas rester silencieux et ˆ Žlever la voix ensemble È. Avec plusieurs prtres et derrire une banderole, Mgr Zhu Žtait allŽ porter sa lettre aux autoritŽs provinciales. En rŽponse, il lui avait ŽtŽ signifiŽ quÕil devait se taire, faute de quoi lui et les catholiques de Wenzhou pourraient se retrouver en prison.

Le dŽcs de Mgr Zhu intervient quelques semaines aprs celui de Mgr Vincent Huang Shoucheng, Žvque Ç clandestin È de Mindong, un diocse trs vivant de la province du Fujian. Lˆ encore, la succession promet dՐtre dŽlicate.

 

Chine : activitŽs religieuses interdites dans les h™pitaux du Zhejiang

LÕObservatoire de la Christianophobie

Source : AsiaNews, 19 aožt

La destruction de centaines de croix et de lieux de culte chrŽtiens ne suffit donc pas aux autoritŽs communistes de la province du Zhejiang et de la ville de Wenzhou. Elles ont dŽcrŽtŽ, hier vendredi 19 aožt, que la visite aux malades chrŽtiens des h™pitaux et cliniques par des prtres ou des pasteurs, Žtait dŽsormais interdite comme le sont aussi Ç toutes formes dÕactivitŽs religieuses È y compris la prire personnelle des patients chrŽtiens ! Accompagnons donc des n™tres la prire silencieuse de ces maladesÉ

 

Zhejiang : la campagne dÕabattage des croix sur les Ždifices chrŽtiens se poursuit

08/06/2016

Depuis janvier 2014, les chrŽtiens du Zhejiang, province situŽe au sud de Shanghai, subissent une forme particulire de rŽpression : au nom du respect des normes dÕurbanisme et de la lŽgislation sur les permis de construire, de trs nombreuses croix situŽes au sommet des Ždifices religieux, que ce soient des Žglises ...

 

... catholiques ou des temples protestants, ont ŽtŽ abattues. Lorsque les responsables de ces communautŽs chrŽtiennes rŽsistent ou manifestent leur mŽcontentement, les autoritŽs nÕhŽsitent pas ˆ intervenir de manire musclŽe.

En un peu plus de deux ans, entre 1 200 et 1 700 croix ont ainsi ŽtŽ abattues. Un article publiŽ le 21 mai 2016 par le New York Times fait le point sur cette campagne, apparemment circonscrite ˆ la seule province du Zhejiang. La traduction est de la RŽdaction dÕEglises dÕAsie.

Au Zhejiang, au fil des vallŽes et des collines de cette province c™tire que baignent les eaux de la mer de Chine orientale, la campagne gouvernementale dÕabattage des croix situŽes sur les clochers des lieux de culte chrŽtiens laisse une impression de dŽsolation au visiteur de passage. CÕest comme si un typhon avait ravagŽ la c™te, dŽcapitant les b‰timents au hasard de son passage.

A Shuitou, ville du sud de la province, des ouvriers y sont allŽs au chalumeau pour retirer la croix de trois mtres de haut situŽe au sommet du clocher de trente-sept mtres au-dessus de lՎglise du Salut. La croix repose maintenant dans la cour de lՎglise, enveloppŽe dÕun maigre linceul rouge.

Dans la commune de Mabu, une quinzaine de kilomtres plus ˆ lÕest, la police anti-Žmeute a ŽtŽ dŽployŽe pour empcher les paroissiens de pŽnŽtrer dans lÕenceinte de lՎglise de Dachang alors que des ouvriers montaient des Žchafaudages pour scier la croix. Dans les villages de Ximei, Aojiang, Shanmen et Tengqiao, situŽs aux alentours, des croix sont ainsi tombŽes, et gisent maintenant ˆ plat sur des toits ou dans des cours, ou sont encore enterrŽes comme des cadavres.

Au cours dÕun voyage de quatre jours au cÏur de cette rŽgion prospre de la province du Zhejiang, jÕai pu parler avec des habitants qui mÕont donnŽ force dŽtails sur les efforts impressionnants dŽployŽs par les autoritŽs pour anŽantir des croix, ce symbole qui partout dans le monde signale une prŽsence chrŽtienne. Depuis un peu plus de deux ans, selon des membres de lÕadministration locale et de simples habitants, les autoritŽs ont abattu les croix de 1 200 ˆ 1 700 Žglises, donnant parfois lieu ˆ des affrontements violents avec les croyants qui essayaient de les arrter.

Ç Cela a ŽtŽ trs difficile ˆ gŽrer È, commente un ancien de lՎglise de Shuitou qui a prŽfŽrŽ, comme les autres, garder lÕanonymat, de peur des reprŽsailles du gouvernement. Ç Il ne nous reste plus quՈ nous mettre ˆ genoux et ˆ prier. È

Lutter contre les infiltrations Žtrangres

La campagne sÕest limitŽe au Zhejiang, province qui abrite une des communautŽs chrŽtiennes les plus importantes et vivantes du pays. Mais selon des personnes au fait des dŽlibŽrations du gouvernement chinois, derrire la campagne dÕabattage des croix dans cette province se cache un nouvel effort dŽployŽ au niveau national pour rŽguler plus sŽvrement la vie spirituelle en Chine. Cette tentative sÕinscrit dans le resserrement gŽnŽral exercŽ par le pouvoir en place sur la sociŽtŽ, un resserrement voulu par le prŽsident Xi Jinping.

A lÕoccasion dÕun discours officiel important sur la politique religieuse du pays prononcŽ [en avril 2016], Xi Jinping a recommandŽ aux membres du Parti communiste de se Ç protŽger rŽsolument contre les infiltrations Žtrangres menŽes sous des prŽtextes religieux È. Il a aussi averti que les religions pratiquŽes en Chine devraient tre Ç sinisŽes È, et quÕelles devraient adhŽrer aux politiques religieuses du Parti communiste chinois. Ces instructions rŽvlent la crainte, ancienne, du gouvernement chinois que le christianisme sape un jour lÕautoritŽ du Parti. En Chine, bon nombre dÕavocats des droits de lÕhomme sont des chrŽtiens, et beaucoup de dissidents ont dŽclarŽ avoir ŽtŽ influencŽs par lÕidŽe que les droits de la personne humaine trouvent leur racine en Dieu.

Ces dernires dŽcennies, malgrŽ des campagnes rŽgulires de rŽpression contre les groupements religieux non enregistrŽs ou lÕinterdiction de mouvements spirituels tels le Falungong, le Parti avait largement tolŽrŽ une certaine renaissance des religions en Chine, permettant aux Chinois dÕexercer la religion de leur choix, encourageant mme la construction dՎglises, de mosquŽes, et de temples.

Des centaines de millions de personnes ont adoptŽ les croyances religieuses dominantes du pays : le bouddhisme, le tao•sme, lÕislam et le christianisme. La Chine compte aujourdÕhui une soixantaine de millions de chrŽtiens. Beaucoup frŽquentent des Žglises enregistrŽes par le gouvernement, mais la moitiŽ dÕentre eux au moins pratique dans des Žglises non enregistrŽes, que les autoritŽs locales faisaient souvent semblant dÕignorer.

Mais la dŽcision de Xi Jinping de convoquer une Ç confŽrence sur les religions È en avril dernier – la premire du genre depuis ces quinze dernires annŽes – tŽmoigne sans doute de son insatisfaction vis-ˆ-vis de certaines des dŽcisions politiques adoptŽes au sujet de ces religions. Les personnes au fait des discussions du Parti pensent quÕil a lÕintention de sÕappuyer sur certaines des leons tirŽes de la campagne dans le Zhejiang pour freiner la progression de lÕensemble des groupes religieux ˆ travers le pays.

Les religions : une menace pour le Parti

Selon les informations disponibles, sÕil est improbable que le gouvernement en vienne ˆ abattre toutes les croix des Žglises de Chine, on peut cependant sÕattendre ˆ ce que les autoritŽs locales se mettent ˆ examiner minutieusement les finances et les liens avec lՎtranger de toutes les Eglises et autres institutions religieuses. De telles actions resteraient dans la lignŽe des efforts dŽployŽs par le gouvernement pour minimiser lÕinfluence des religions – et plus particulirement du christianisme –, considŽrŽ comme une menace pour le Parti.

Ç Les ŽvŽnements survenus dans le Zhejiang sont un test, estime Fan Yafeng, juriste indŽpendant ˆ PŽkin. Si le gouvernement considre que le rŽsultat est un succs, il renouvellera et renforcera ses actions. È

Elargir cette campagne en vue de contr™ler lÕessor des religions pourrait pourtant, ˆ terme, porter prŽjudice au prŽsident Xi Jinping. Les croyants quitteront les Eglises dites enregistrŽes, cÕest-ˆ-dire contr™lŽes par le gouvernement, pour rejoindre des communautŽs souterraines qui se rŽunissent secrtement, dans des immeubles de bureaux ou des demeures privŽes par exemple. La campagne pourrait aussi contrarier beaucoup de citadins, des cols-blancs convertis au christianisme.

Ç Ne pas considŽrer le christianisme comme une religion du pays mais comme une religion Žtrangre pourrait aliŽner les chrŽtiens chinois È, explique Fredrick Fallman, spŽcialiste du christianisme en Chine ˆ lÕuniversitŽ de Gšteborg, en Sude. Ç Mais cÕest peut-tre ce quÕils veulent : leur faire peur. È

SituŽ dans une vallŽe ˆ une quinzaine de kilomtres de la c™te, le village de Shuitou est un petit bourg de b‰timents en bŽton, aux rues arrangŽes de faon assez dŽsordonnŽe. La plupart des lieux de culte traditionnels – des temples bouddhistes et tao•stes ainsi que des sanctuaires ancestraux dŽdiŽs aux dŽfunts des familles – sont des petites structures. Certains sont construits ˆ flanc de montagne et la plupart se situent ˆ lÕabri des regards.

Cependant, depuis les annŽes 1980, quatorze Žglises ont ŽtŽ construites ˆ Shuitou, financŽes gr‰ce aux dons dÕentrepreneurs locaux dŽsireux dÕafficher leur prospŽritŽ nouvelle et leur foi ˆ toute Žpreuve. Les nefs sont hautes de plusieurs Žtages, et les flches des clochers sՎlancent vers le ciel, ˆ plus de trente mtres au-dessus du sol.

RŽcemment encore, la plupart de ces flches Žtaient surmontŽes de vives croix de couleur rouge. Mais celles-ci ont ŽtŽ retirŽes de la moitiŽ des Žglises de Shuitou. Les ordres du gouvernement sont tombŽs tous les mois et dÕautres sont encore ˆ venir. Beaucoup de croyants interviewŽs sÕinquitent de voir arriver la fin dÕune Žpoque.

Ç Nous nÕavions jamais eu de problme avec les autoritŽs pendant des annŽes È, tŽmoigne un croyant local. Ç Nos Žglises Žtaient bien vues par le gouvernement. È

Les paroissiens face ˆ la police anti-Žmeute

Cette campagne dÕabattage des croix a commencŽ en 2014, lorsque le gouvernement a annoncŽ de manire soudaine son projet de dŽmolir lՎglise de la grande ville voisine, ˆ Wenzhou, dŽclarant quÕelle nÕavait jamais reu de permis de construire en bonne et due forme. Le gouvernement a continuŽ ensuite ˆ Žmettre des ordres, exigeant des Žglises de toute la province pour quÕelles retirent leurs croix.

En 2014, des chrŽtiens ont barricadŽ leur Žglise pour en bloquer lÕaccs aux dŽmolisseurs de croix. (D. Tang/AP)

LՎglise du Salut, une construction qui comprend un hall principal de trois Žtages avec un toit surmontŽ de trois flches, ainsi que des bureaux annexes et un parking, est vite devenue un centre de rŽsistance. Des centaines de paroissiens ont encerclŽ lՎglise pour protŽger sa croix, nÕhŽsitant pas ˆ affronter des centaines dÕagents de la police anti-Žmeute.

Lors dÕune confrontation, une cinquantaine des membres de lՎglise ont ŽtŽ blessŽs. Des photos de chrŽtiens battus et couverts de bleus ont inondŽ les rŽseaux sociaux et les sites Internet dÕONG Žtrangres luttant pour les droits des chrŽtiens.

DÕaprs les paroissiens, le gouvernement exerce des pressions sur les membres les plus actifs de la communautŽ. Certains hommes dÕaffaires ont subi des pressions pour annuler des contrats Žtablis avec des chrŽtiens. Des patrons ont aussi fait savoir ˆ leurs employŽs quÕils perdraient leur travail sÕils continuaient de manifester contre les dŽcisions du gouvernement.

Aprs la destruction de lՎglise de Wenzhou, lՎglise du Salut a capitulŽ et acceptŽ de retirer ses croix.

Le gouvernement a annoncŽ quÕil ne faisait quÕappliquer les codes dÕurbanisme en vigueur, et que toutes les structures, pas seulement les Žglises, Žtaient visŽes. Cependant, des documents examinŽs par le New York Times indiquent que les autoritŽs de cette province sÕinquitent de la place dominante que les Žglises commencent ˆ prendre dans le paysage de la rŽgion.

Les croix ont ŽtŽ retirŽes par vagues. Selon des personnes travaillant au sein dՎglises enregistrŽes auprs des autoritŽs, un minimum de 1 200 croix avait dŽjˆ ŽtŽ retirŽ lՎtŽ dernier. De nombreux habitants affirment que le chiffre sՎlverait maintenant ˆ 1 700.

Ç Tout est restŽ calme pendant longtemps lÕannŽe dernire È, nous raconte un chrŽtien local, Ç mais maintenant, le gouvernement nous fait savoir de manire claire que toutes les croix seront retirŽes. È

Les chrŽtiens sous pression

Tandis que les autoritŽs appuyaient la mise en Ïuvre rapide de cette campagne, des personnalitŽs chinoises influentes, protestantes et catholiques, dont quelques anciens du Bureau des Affaires religieuses du gouvernement, la dŽnonaient dans leurs sermons et par le biais des mŽdias et des rŽseaux sociaux.

Gu Yuese, pasteur de lՎglise de Chongyi ˆ Hangzhou (capitale de la province du Zhejiang) ; lÕune des Eglises protestantes les plus importantes du monde sinophone, se trouvait parmi eux. Leader protestant extrmement connu en Chine, Gu Yuese est influent, et ses critiques ont rŽsonnŽ au-delˆ des frontires du Zhejiang.

Ç Ces actions violent de manire flagrante la politique de libertŽ religieuse implŽmentŽe et amŽliorŽe de manire continue par le Parti depuis plus de soixante ans È, a-t-il Žcrit sur du papier ˆ en-tte officiel du gouvernement.

 

Depuis, il a ŽtŽ rŽduit au silence. En janvier dernier, la police a arrtŽ Gu Yuese, lÕaccusant dÕavoir dŽtournŽ des fonds de son Eglise. Quelques jours plus tard, un autre pasteur du Zhejiang qui avait manifestŽ son dŽsaccord envers le gouvernement, se faisait arrter lui-aussi, pour des raisons similaires.

Ç CÕest une mŽthode pour nous dire de faire attention È, commente le pasteur dÕune Žglise officielle de Wenzhou. Ç Aucun de nous nÕa reu de formation dans la finance, il est donc probable quÕun comptable envoyŽ pour vŽrifier nos comptes trouve des erreurs. È

Plusieurs membres du clergŽ de la rŽgion racontent subir des pressions des autoritŽs locales, et doivent fournir des gages de leur loyautŽ au Parti communiste. Certaines Eglises ont par exemple commencŽ ˆ faire lՎloge de la campagne du prŽsident Xi visant ˆ promouvoir Ç les valeurs fondamentales du socialisme È – un slogan censŽ offrir un systme de croyances sŽculires soutenant la lŽgitimitŽ du Parti.

Ç Nous devons nous comporter comme des chrŽtiens loyaux È, explique une personne travaillant pour lÕEglise de Chengxi, ˆ Wenzhou. Ç Autrement, nous pourrions avoir des problmes. È

En fŽvrier dernier, la tŽlŽvision dÕEtat a diffusŽ les Ç confessions È dÕun avocat Žminent qui avouait avoir collaborŽ avec des forces Žtrangres, et plus particulirement avec des organisations amŽricaines, pour semer le trouble chez les chrŽtiens de la rŽgion. Cet avocat, Zhang Kai, avait ŽtŽ dans le Zhejiang pour fournir des conseils juridiques aux Eglises opposŽes au retrait de leurs croix.

Les Eglises non enregistrŽes sont vulnŽrables, elles aussi. En dŽcembre, la police dŽtenait plusieurs membres de lÕEglise de Living Stone (Ç pierre vivante È), une communautŽ non enregistrŽe de la province du Guizhou, dans le sud de la Chine. Ces membres avaient refusŽ de rejoindre les rangs dÕune Eglise protestante contr™lŽe par le gouvernement. Le pasteur a ensuite ŽtŽ arrtŽ pour Ç divulgation de secrets dÕEtat È.

Ç CÕest facile pour eux dÕinventer des crimes et de nous en accuser È, explique le pasteur dÕune importante Eglise non enregistrŽe de Wenzhou. Ç Nous devons tre trs prudents. È

A Shuitou, bien des croyants prŽfrent garder la tte baissŽe, espŽrant que lÕorage passera vite.

Les jeunes manifestent leur dŽsaccord

Un dimanche du mois dernier, trois cent personnes environ ont assistŽ ˆ la messe cŽlŽbrŽe ˆ lՎglise du Salut. Les femmes dÕun c™tŽ, les hommes de lÕautre – selon lÕusage traditionnel. A lÕavant de lՎglise, au dessus dÕune grosse croix rouge, six caractres on pouvait lire : Ç La saintetŽ ˆ Dieu È.

La plupart de ces hommes et de ces femmes avaient entre 50 et 60 ans, une moyenne ŽlevŽe Žtant donnŽ que les plus jeunes avaient, pour la plupart, choisi de boycotter la messe du dimanche, manifestant ainsi leur dŽsaccord avec la dŽcision de lÕEglise de se conformer aux ordres du gouvernement en acceptant de retirer la croix.

 

A la place, ces jeunes vont dŽsormais ˆ la messe du jeudi, commŽmorant ainsi le jour de la semaine o leur croix fut retirŽe. Ils participaient auparavant aux groupes dՎtude de la Bible de leur Eglise, mais dŽsormais ils Žtudient de leur c™tŽ. Certains se demandent sÕils ne devraient pas, avec dÕautres, cesser compltement de se rendre dans les Eglises enregistrŽes pour commencer ˆ frŽquenter les Eglises souterraines.

Un ancien de lÕEglise faisant parti de la direction, qui a tenu ˆ garder lÕanonymat, raconte que sÕils ont acceptŽ avec dÕautres de retirer la croix, cÕest quÕils avaient peur quÕautrement leur Žglise soit dŽmolie. Les gens risquaient de perdre leur travail, a-t-il ajoutŽ, et la direction sÕest dit quÕil nÕy avait plus dÕautre choix que dÕinviter les paroissiens ˆ se soumettre aux ordres des autoritŽs. Ç Il y a une trentaine dÕannŽes, nous nÕavions mme pas dՎglise, explique-t-il. Tout au long de son histoire, lÕEglise a connu des persŽcutions. Tout ce quÕil nous reste ˆ faire, cÕest de prier. È

 

Chine : lÕavocat des communautŽs chrŽtiennes de Wenzhou Ç confessŽ È ˆ la tŽlŽvision

Mis au secret par la police chinoise depuis aožt dernier, Zhang Kai a fait lÕ objet dÕun long reportage jeudi sur le journal dÕune cha”ne locale.

Le Monde.fr | 26.02.2016 ˆ 21h49 | Par Brice Pedroletti (PŽkin, correspondant)

EngagŽ par les communautŽs chrŽtiennes de la ville de Wenzhou pour les dŽfendre contre une campagne de dŽmolition dՎglises et de croix , lÕavocat Zhang Kai est le dernier en date des militants des droits de lÕhomme chinois ˆ sՐtre retrouvŽ pris au pige dÕune opŽration de dŽnigrement officielle.

LÕavocat, mis au secret par la police chinoise depuis aožt dernier, a fait lÕobjet dÕun long reportage le jeudi 25 fŽvrier du journal de la tŽlŽvision locale . Celui-ci le prŽsente comme un agitateur ˆ la solde des Žtrangers, motivŽ ˆ la fois par lÕapp‰t du gain et le dŽsir dÕembarrasser le gouvernement chinois – ˆ lÕinstar dÕ autres dissidents exhibŽs ces derniers mois sur les cha”nes tŽlŽvisŽes du pays.

On y dŽcouvre lÕavocat assis sur une de ces chaises en mŽtal fermŽe par une lourde barre qui entrave les mouvements du prisonnier . DÕune voix monocorde, il confesse ses crimes aux interrogateurs de la police : Ç Je leur ai dit non pas que le gouvernement cherchait ˆ dŽmolir des b‰timents illŽgaux, mais quÕil sÕattaquait aux Žglises. Je leur ai dit de sÕunir et de se battre È, reconna”t Zhang Kai. Ç Les forces Žtrangres poussent les chrŽtiens ˆ se rebeller contre le gouvernement et veulent renverser le systme politique chinois È , poursuit -il, des poches gonflŽes sous les yeux . AgŽ de 36 ans, lÕavocat est dŽcrit par ses confrres comme une forte tte, peu enclin ˆ jouer le jeu de la police.

Conflit ouvert depuis 2013

La thse du complot ourdi par lÕ Occident est cousue de fil blanc. LÕarrestation de Zhang Kai, le 25 aožt 2015, Žtait intervenue, comme par hasard , la veille dÕun rendez- vous prŽvu avec le rabbin David Saperstein, lÕ ambassadeur pour la libertŽ religieuse du gouvernement Obama, alors en visite en Chine . Elle a eu lieu dans la foulŽe de lÕoffensive lancŽe dŽbut juillet par lÕ appareil de sŽcuritŽ chinois contre plusieurs centaines dÕavocats des droits de lÕhomme ˆ travers la Chine.

LÕavocat reconna”t avoir signŽ un contrat avec une centaine dՎglises ˆ Wenzhou et sՐtre vu promettre des honoraires qui atteignent plus dÕune centaine de milliers dÕeuros – un fait qui, vrai ou faux , ne constitue en rien un dŽlit. Zhang Kai admet Žgalement avoir ŽtŽ soutenu par China Aid, lÕ ONG amŽricaine du pasteur et dissident chinois Bob Fu, qui sÕefforce dÕalerter la communautŽ internationale sur les destructions dՎglises ˆ Wenzhou. Ç Ses propos ont tout des aveux arrachŽs par la force È , nous dit Bob Fu, qui a accueilli plusieurs fois Zhang Kai aux Etats-Unis . Selon lui, sa coopŽration devrait valoir ˆ lÕavocat une remise en libertŽ – mais assortie de multiples contraintes et sans doute dÕune interdiction dÕexercer sa profession.

Les chrŽtiens de Wenzhou sont en rŽalitŽ en conflit ouvert depuis fin 2013 avec les autoritŽs de la province du Zhejiang . Cette grosse ville commerante au sud de Shangha• , dont est issue la diaspora chinoise de Paris , est parfois appelŽe la JŽrusalem chinoise pour le succs quÕy conna”t le christianisme dans les villages et les bourgs de son hinterland . Les autoritŽs du Zhejiang y ont dŽcrŽtŽ il y a deux ans , sous prŽtexte dÕembellissement urbain, que certaines Žglises (en majoritŽ protestantes , mais aussi catholiques) arboraient des croix trop voyantes ou avaient construit des b‰timents excŽdant la superficie autorisŽe.

Ç Suivre une formation sur les droits de lÕhomme serait un crime ? È

Des dizaines dՎglises, en grande majoritŽ Ç officielles È, cÕest-ˆ-dire sous la tutelle du Parti communiste chinois, ont donc ŽtŽ dŽmolies de force, et plus dÕun millier de croix auraient ŽtŽ dŽtruites ou enlevŽes, lors dÕopŽrations qui ont suscitŽ un tollŽ en raison de leur brutalitŽ. La communautŽ chrŽtienne de Wenzhou a dŽnoncŽ une nouvelle inquisition communiste menŽe par les dirigeants de la province pour plaire ˆ Xi Jinping, dont le Zhejiang fut le fief au milieu des annŽes 2000. Bref, la riche et prospre JŽrusalem chinoise serait allŽe trop loin dans sa ferveur pour une religion qui reste Žminemment suspecte dans le nouveau climat de reprise en main idŽologique.

Converti depuis une dizaine dÕannŽes au christianisme, mais connu pour avoir aussi bien dŽfendu des TibŽtains, des membres du Falun Gong, le mouvement religieux banni, ou dÕautres victimes dÕ injustices , Zhang Kai sՎtait investi corps et ‰me dans son combat auprs de ses Ç  clients È de Wenzhou. Il avait dÕabord dŽfendu un pasteur arrtŽ, puis a entrepris de conseiller les militants locaux sur la manire de mener leur combat dans un cadre lŽgal. Ç  Le but de ces confessions, cÕest dÕenvoyer un message aux autres avocats de ne pas sÕoccuper de dossiers ayant trait aux questions religieuses. Et de dissuader les paroisses dÕ emprunter la voie dÕune dŽfense lŽgale  È poursuit le pasteur Bob Fu, joint depuis le Royaume-Uni o il est en dŽplacement.

Ç  Ensuite, ils veulent empcher toute collaboration avec lՎtranger dans le domaine des droits de lÕhomme. CÕest consternant. En quoi aller ˆ lՎtranger et suivre des formations sur les droits de lÕhomme serait un crime ? Des tas dÕinstitutions chinoises reoivent de lÕ aide internationale et des formations. Le visa amŽricain de Zhang Kai est exhibŽ comme si cՎtait un dŽlit !  È Dans leur campagne contre les Žglises et les croix de Wenzhou, les autoritŽs provinciales nÕont fait aucun compromis, note le pasteur sino-amŽricain : deux Žglises catholiques viennent de recevoir un avis de destruction, tandis que la croix dÕun temple protestant a ŽtŽ bržlŽe hier. Pour Bob Fu, Ç le cas Zhang Kai montre quÕils exigent une obŽissance absolue. Toute voix discordante est dŽnoncŽe comme une attaque contre la sŽcuritŽ de lÕEtat È.

 

Chine : la campagne dÕabattage des croix continue

ACTUALITƒ CHRƒTIENNE17 MARS 2016

La campagne dÕabattage des croix situŽes sur les toits des Žglises dans la province du Zhejiang en Chine continue. Afin Ç dÕembellir È cette rŽgion, le gouvernement a abattu quatre nouvelles croix jeudi et vendredi de la semaine dernire.

Les croix des Žglises chrŽtiennes de Dajing et de Bailuyu, et celles des Žglises de Dongyu et de Baiqiangdi ont ŽtŽ abattues jeudi et vendredi dernier. Les membres dÕune cinquime Žglise, lՎglise Nange, ont Žgalement reu un avis de dŽmolition.

Selon les membres de ces Žglises, les dŽmolitions ont eu lieu tard dans la nuit ou trs t™t le matin, pour Žviter que des personnes, qui auraient pu tre prŽsentes, puissent rŽsister.

Un membre anonyme a dŽclarŽ que leur Žglise a repoussŽ une tentative de dŽmolition plus t™t dans la soirŽe ˆ 21 heures. Mais les autoritŽs sont revenues ˆ minuit pour terminer le travail.

Depuis 2014, la Chine exige que les croix des Žglises soient apposŽes sur la faade des Ždifices religieux, et non plus sur leur sommet, et que leur hauteur ne dŽpasse de moins dÕun dixime celle du b‰timent. Cette politique intitulŽe Ç trois rectifications pour une dŽmolition È vise, selon le gouvernement, ˆ embellir le Zhejiang en gommant les aspects disgracieux des Žglises illŽgales.

CÕest du moins lÕexplication officielle. En coulisse, cependant, les choses seraient diffŽrentes : selon les dŽfenseurs des droits de lÕhomme et les chrŽtiens, cette campagne aurait plut™t comme but de mener une opŽration de rŽpression contre les lieux de cultes chrŽtiens, dans le but dÕarrter la croissance des Žglises dans cette rŽgion.

 

Chine : la province du Zhejiang fait la chasse aux croix chrŽtiennes trop voyantes

© Liu Jin, AFP | Des Chinois devant une Žglise catholique le 24 dŽcembre 2009 ˆ PŽkin. Selon les chiffres officiels, la Chine compte 5 millions de catholiques et 15 millions de protestants.

Texte par FRANCE 24 

Dernire modification : 01/03/2016

ArrtŽ pour sՐtre opposŽ ˆ la dŽmolition de la croix surplombant son Žglise, un pasteur chinois vient d'Žcoper de 14 ans de prison pour "fraude fiscale". Une message de grande fermetŽ envoyŽ par les autoritŽs locales aux chrŽtiens de la rŽgion.

Bao Guohua, cŽlbre pasteur de la province du Zhejiang, ˆ l'est de la Chine, et sa femme, Xing Wenxiang, ont ŽtŽ arrtŽs en juillet dernier par les autoritŽs chinoises. Leur tort : ils avaient publiquement dŽnoncŽ une campagne de dŽmontage des croix surmontant les Žglises chrŽtiennes menŽe par les autoritŽs locales.

Depuis 2014, les rglements provinciaux exigent en effet que les croix soient dŽsormais placŽes sur la faade des Ždifices religieux, et non plus ˆ leur sommet, et que leur hauteur ne dŽpasse pas un dixime de celle du b‰timent. Cette nouvelle politique sÕinscrit dans le cadre dÕune campagne intitulŽe "Trois rectifications pour une dŽmolition".

"Officiellement, cette opŽration vise ˆ ÔembellirÕ la province [du Zhejiang] en supprimant les aspects disgracieux des structures illŽgalement construites. Mais les chrŽtiens et les dŽfenseurs des droits de lÕHomme dŽnoncent, quant ˆ eux, une vaste opŽration de rŽpression visant les lieux de culte chrŽtiens et en particulier les croix dressŽes sur les Ždifices, dans le but de stopper la croissance des Žglises dans la rŽgion", a expliquŽ de son c™tŽ lÕagence dÕinformation ƒglises dÕAsie, sur son site internet.

L'Žglise de Sanjiang dŽtruite par les autoritŽs chinoises, non loin de la ville de Whenzou, dans la province du Zhenjiang, le 30 avril 2014. © Mark Ralston, AFP

Dix autres personnes condamnŽes

Durant leur procs, les Žpoux nÕont pas ŽtŽ inculpŽs sous un chef dÕaccusation religieux maisÉ. fiscal. Le tribunal chinois a en effet condamnŽ Bao Guohua ˆ 14 ans de prison pour dŽtournement de fonds, opŽrations commerciales illŽgales et dissimulation d'informations comptables, a-t-on appris auprs des mŽdias locaux, lundi 29 fŽvrier.

Sa femme Xing Wenxiang a, elle, ŽtŽ condamnŽe ˆ 12 ans d'emprisonnement. D'aprs China Aid, une association basŽe aux ƒtats-Unis, Bao Guohua et son Žpouse ont ŽtŽ obligŽs de rŽcuser leurs avocats avant le procs. Leurs biens ont ŽtŽ saisis, d'aprs les mŽdias chinois.

Dix autres personnes ont ŽtŽ condamnŽes ˆ des peines de prison dans le cadre de cette affaire, ont rapportŽ le journal Zhejiang Daily et la tŽlŽvision locale, sans prŽciser leur durŽe.

Selon Le Monde, la communautŽ chrŽtienne de cette rŽgion fait face ˆ la "nouvelle inquisition communiste menŽe par les dirigeants de la province pour plaire au prŽsident Xi Jinping, dont le Zhejiang fut le fief au milieu des annŽes 2000". Les chrŽtiens de la ville de Whenzou, dans le Zheijang, "[seraient allŽs] trop loin dans [leur] ferveur pour une religion qui reste Žminemment suspecte dans le nouveau climat de reprise en main idŽologique."

Ce nÕest pas la premire fois que les chrŽtiens sont dans le collimateur des autoritŽs chinoises. Le plus cŽlbre des avocats des pasteurs et militants chrŽtiens du Zhejiang, Zhang Kai, est dŽtenu au secret depuis aožt 2015.

En 2014, les autoritŽs de la ville de Wenzhou avaient dŽmoli la monumentale Žglise de Sanjiang, au motif que sa construction n'avait pas respectŽ les rgles.

La Chine compte quelque 5,7 millions de catholiques et 23 millions de protestants, selon des chiffres du Bureau des affaires religieuses datant de 2014. Mais avec l'"Žglise souterraine" prospŽrant en dehors des organisations officielles, la communautŽ chrŽtienne chinoise pourrait au total comprendre quelque 60 millions de personnes, selon certaines estimations.

 

Campagne dÕabattage des croix : au Zhejiang, la rŽsistance des chrŽtiens prend de lÕampleur

Eglises dÕAsie

26/08/2015

Dans la province du Zhejiang, ˆ mesure que les mois passent, le bilan de la campagne dÕabattage des croix des lieux de culte chrŽtiens sÕalourdit. Quelque 1 200 croix plantŽes au sommet des lieux de culte ont ainsi ŽtŽ dŽmontŽes ou dŽplacŽes, et plusieurs dizaines de lieux de culte dŽtruits. Toutefois, la nouveautŽ nÕest plus tant ...

... dans la conduite de cette campagne par les autoritŽs provinciales – les premires croix ont ŽtŽ abattues en janvier 2014 – que dans la rŽsistance opposŽe par les communautŽs chrŽtiennes. Unis dans une commune dŽnonciation de cette campagne, membres des Eglises officiellement enregistrŽes ou fidles des Eglises Ç clandestines È, catholiques et protestants osent dire ouvertement leur mŽcontentement, un mŽcontentement qui trouve des relais ˆ lՎtranger.

Sur le terrain, si la campagne se poursuit, les autoritŽs semblent avoir perdu la bataille de la communication. En mai dernier dŽjˆ, les rŽseaux sociaux chinois sՎtaient emparŽs dÕune photo o lÕon voyait une grue tŽlescopique gŽante approcher son bras du sommet du temple de la communautŽ protestante Huzhen, dans la ville de Lishui (centre du Zhejiang) ; la nacelle de la grue semblait prte ˆ saisir la croix surmontant lՎdifice, une croix en proie aux flammes et surmontŽe dÕune colonne de fumŽe noire. Sur le rŽseau social Weibo, les commentaires accompagnant la photo Žtaient sans Žquivoque : des officiels Ç mauvais È avaient mis le feu ˆ la croix, faute de la dŽtruire autrement. La rŽplique des autoritŽs fut non seulement trs tardive, mais peu plausible : dŽbut juillet, le Zhejiang Ribao (ÔQuotidien du ZhejiangÕ) affirmait que la croix, Ç dangereusement proche È du paratonnerre, comprenait un systme dՎclairage dŽfectueux et avait Ç spontanŽment È pris feu.

Depuis le mois de juillet, les chrŽtiens du Zhejiang, qui constitue une minoritŽ difficile ˆ dŽnombrer mais consŽquente de la population de cette riche province c™tire, sÕorganisent pour opposer ˆ la campagne Ç une dŽsobŽissance non violente et pacifique È, ainsi que lÕexprime un pasteur protestant de Wenzhou, principal foyer chrŽtien de la province

Cette rŽsistance des chrŽtiens a pris plusieurs formes. Le 27 juillet, dans un geste aussi rare que remarquŽ, lՎvque Ç officiel È du diocse catholique de Wenzhou, Mgr Zhu Weifang, a publiŽ, avec 26 de ses prtres, une lettre ouverte pour appeler Ç les catholiques chinois et toutes les personnes animŽes par un sens de la justice ˆ ne pas rester silencieux et ˆ Žlever la voix ensemble È. Evoquant une Ç persŽcution qui se renforce È, le prŽlat ‰gŽ Žcrit : Ç En tant que citoyens chinois, nous aspirons ˆ une dŽmocratie plus complte et ˆ un vŽritable Etat de droit.È

Avec plusieurs prtres et derrire une banderole, Mgr Zhu est allŽ porter sa lettre aux autoritŽs provinciales. En rŽponse, il lui a ŽtŽ signifiŽ quÕil devait se taire, faute de quoi lui et les catholiques de Wenzhou pourraient se retrouver en prison. Selon un avocat chrŽtien de Wenzhou, citŽ par lÕagence Ucanews, Ç les gens ont peur mais ils sont dŽterminŽs et ne veulent pas quÕon les fasse taire È.

Par ailleurs, pour sÕopposer aux dŽmolitions de croix, des fidles occupent 24 h sur 24 leurs lieux de culte. Au nord de la capitale provinciale Hangzhou, dans le village Ya, du district de Huzhou, vingt-deux protestants campent sur le toit de leur temple pour en empcher lÕaccs aux forces de lÕordre. Des mesures dÕoccupation pacifique qui ne sont pas sans danger : le 8 aožt dernier, le typhon Soudelor a frappŽ Wenzhou et sa rŽgion, causant 33 morts, dont deux chrŽtiennes. Elles faisaient partie dÕun groupe de quatre chrŽtiennes veillant jour et nuit sur leur Žglise ; la nuit du 8 aožt, fatiguŽes de monter sur le toit du lieu de culte, deux dÕentre elles, ‰gŽes de 77 et 81 ans, avaient choisi de dormir au rez-de-chaussŽe de leur Žglise, elles sont mortes noyŽes, emportŽes par une montŽe soudaine des eaux, dues aux pluies diluviennes.

Enfin, des fidles ont entrepris de distribuer ˆ tous les croyants des petites croix en bois, hautes de 50 ˆ 70 cm, le plus souvent peintes en rouge, ˆ charge pour chacun de lÕafficher ˆ la fentre de son domicile. Ç Demain, vous verrez des croix partout dans le Zhejiang È, affiche un prtre catholique dans un message postŽ sur Weibo.

Loin de se cantonner aux chrŽtiens du Zhejiang, le mouvement de protestation face ˆ la campagne de dŽmolition des croix sՎtend au-delˆ de la province. Le 31 juillet, deux groupes de prtres catholiques issus respectivement du sŽminaire rŽgional de Wuchang (Wuhan) et du sŽminaire rŽgional de Sheshan (Shanghai) ont publiŽ des communiquŽs pour dŽnoncer la campagne, la comparant aux campagnes de dŽmolition de la RŽvolution culturelle (1966-1976). Trois Žvques Ç clandestins È (Mgr Wang Ruowang, de Tianshui, Mgr Wei Jingyi, de Qiqihar, et Mgr Shao Zhumin, lՎvque Ç clandestin È de Wenzhou) se sont ˆ leur tour exprimŽs, ajoutant leur voix ˆ celle dՎvques Ç officiels È.

Selon Bob Fu, prŽsident de China Aid, organisation basŽe aux Etats-Unis et venant en aide aux chrŽtiens de Chine, Ç cÕest la premire fois dans lÕhistoire contemporaine de lÕEglise en Chine que lÕon voit une coalition de catholiques et de protestants, issus des Eglises officiellement enregistrŽes et des Eglises Ç domestiques È ou Ç clandestines È, tre ainsi unis pour dŽnoncer des atteintes aux droits de lÕhomme et ˆ la libertŽ religieuse È.

Pour tenter de contrer ce front uni des chrŽtiens, les autoritŽs ont rŽagi. Afin sans doute que les instances par lesquelles le pouvoir applique sa politique religieuse ne perdent pas toute crŽdibilitŽ, la branche provinciale de lÕAssociation patriotique des catholiques chinois et son homologue du Conseil chrŽtien de Chine ont appelŽ ˆ la fin de la campagne de dŽmolition des croix, affirmant que celle-ci Ç blessait gravement les sentiments de plus de deux millions de croyants [du Zhejiang] È. A Wenzhou, le clergŽ, protestant comme catholique, a ŽtŽ convoquŽ ˆ des Ç sessions dՎtude È ˆ propos de la campagne en cours. Il y est rappelŽ que les constructions de lieux de culte, quelle que soit leur appartenance religieuse, doivent respecter la loi et les rglements en vigueur.

Selon diffŽrents observateurs extŽrieurs, les autoritŽs ont toutefois peu de chance de se faire entendre par les chrŽtiens du Zhejiang. Yang Fenggang, directeur du Centre sur la religion et la sociŽtŽ chinoise ˆ lÕuniversitŽ Purdue (Etats-Unis), souligne que le discours des autoritŽs nÕest pas audible dans la mesure o mme des Žglises catholiques et des temples protestants construits avec toutes les autorisations nŽcessaires sont ciblŽs par la campagne de dŽmolition.

De plus, lÕattention de la communautŽ internationale commence ˆ se faire pressante. En juillet, ˆ Washington, Marco Rubio, sŽnateur et candidat ˆ lÕinvestiture rŽpublicaine pour la prŽsidentielle de 2016, a prŽsidŽ une audition au Congrs ˆ propos de Ç la persŽcution religieuse en Chine È. Les associations amŽricaines de dŽfense des chrŽtiens chinois multiplient les initiatives pour dŽnoncer ce qui se passe au Zhejiang. Or, le prŽsident chinois Xi Jinping doit effectuer une visite officielle aux Etats-Unis en septembre, sur lÕinvitation du prŽsident Barack Obama. Il se rendra aussi au sige de lÕONU et y prononcera un discours. Le risque est dŽsormais que le succs annoncŽ par PŽkin de cette visite soit terni par une analyse sans concession du bilan du prŽsident Xi Jinping en matire dÕatteinte aux libertŽs fondamentales.

 

La Chine lutte contre les croix chrŽtiennes

La Croix – Urbi et Orbi

Jean-Baptiste Auduc, le 12/05/2015 ˆ 16h40  Envoyer par email         

Le Parti Communiste Chinois a interdit dans la province du Zhenjiang la prŽsence de croix chrŽtiennes sur les Žglises.

Une loi va rŽglementer la prŽsence des croix sur les toits des Žglises dans la province du Zhenjiang, ˆ lÕEst du pays. Elles entrent dŽsormais en contradiction avec un nouveau code de construction, ŽdictŽ vendredi 8 mai. Ce texte permet au pouvoir chinois de disposer dÕune nouvelle arme pour cacher les signes visibles de la croissance de la religion chrŽtienne sur le territoire. Cette province est le berceau du christianisme en Chine. Whenzou, sa capitale, est dÕailleurs surnommŽe la Ç JŽrusalem chinoise È.

Le correspondant de RTL en Chine rapporte que les croix devront tre prŽsentes Ç sur les faades des b‰timents, et non plus au-dessus È, quÕelles ne devront pas dŽpasser Ç plus dÕun dixime de la hauteur de la faade È, et que leur Ç couleur devra se confondre avec celle de lՎdifice È.

Le Guardian rapporte de son c™tŽ les propos de Bob Fu, de lÕONG chrŽtienne China Aid. Il dŽnonce le comportement du gouvernement chinois: Ç Ce nouveau projet de loi est juste une autre tentative du gouvernement pour lŽgitimer sa campagne illŽgale et violente de destruction et dՎlimination de croix È explique-t-il.

La campagne de destruction avait dŽbutŽ en fin dÕannŽe dernire et avait provoquŽ de nombreux heurts avec les croyants. Le nombre croissant de catholiques en Chine inquite le pouvoir communiste par peur de lՎmergence de contre-pouvoir.

Une Žtude datant de 2011 estime de manire non officielle que 12 millions de catholiques vivent en Chine. Les chiffres restent pourtant peu fiables. Ë PŽkin, 3 000 catholiques ont ŽtŽ baptisŽs pendant la nuit de No‘l. La Chine est le pays o la religion chrŽtienne, protestante ou catholique, progresse le plus. DÕici ˆ 2030, la Chine pourrait devenir le premier pays chrŽtien du monde.

 

Chine : 360 croix enlevŽes de force du toit des Žglises chrŽtiennes

Eglise \ Vie de l'Eglise

Des chrŽtiens en prire dans une Žglise de la pŽriphŽrie de Wengzhou. Depuis le mois de janvier, le gouvernement enlve par la force les croix du toit des Žglises qui ne respecteraient pas la loi. - AP

04/08/2014 18:17

A lÕest de la Chine, le gouvernement de la province de Zhejiang procde depuis le dŽbut du mois de janvier 2014  ˆ une campagne intitulŽe Ç trois rectifications pour une dŽmolition È. Les autoritŽs assurent quÕil sÕagit de lutter contre les Ždifices illŽgaux, non contre les Žglises, mais ce nÕest pas le sentiment des chrŽtiens.

En quelques mois et le phŽnomne semble sÕaccŽlŽrer dans la ville de Wenzhou o vivent de trs nombreux chrŽtiens. Quelques 360 croix auraient ŽtŽ enlevŽes par la force du toit des Žglises et un lieu de culte y aurait ŽtŽ dŽtruit.

Dans une lettre pastorale publiŽe le 30 juillet dernier, Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, lՎvque de la capitale provinciale du Zhejiang dŽnonce cette campagne de destruction Ç injuste È parce que mme des Ç Ždifices qui ne violaient pas la loi È ont ŽtŽ dŽtruits. Il invite les chrŽtiens ˆ Ç ne pas craindre mais croire È et sÕexcuse de ne pas avoir rŽagi plus vite pour les soutenir.

Rosaire et rassemblement de prire

Des paroissiens ont organisŽ des veillŽes et des rassemblements de prires pour sÕopposer aux agents de police qui vient en tenue anti-Žmeute pour ™ter les croix de leurs Žglises. Plusieurs chrŽtiens ont ŽtŽ blessŽs pour avoir voulu sÕopposer ˆ cette campagne de destruction.

LՎvque de Wenzhou propose ˆ ses fidles de de prier le rosaire chaque jour. Il encourage les rassemblements de prire dans les paroisses qui sont le plus touchŽes. Ç Nous prions pour que ceux qui s'en prennent ˆ nous changent È, affirme Mgr Zhu Weifang.

Sa lettre a ŽtŽ suivie par la publication dÕun autre document rŽdigŽ par les prtres du diocse de Wenzhou. Ils affirment que cette campagne Ç injuste È crŽe de la mŽfiance de la part des chrŽtiens, qui ont payŽ pour la construction de ces Žglises, vis ˆ vis des autoritŽs qui les dŽtruisent. Les prtres interpellent les autoritŽs : Ç ne dŽtruisez pas la dŽmocratie, lÕharmonie et la stabilitŽ sociale È. (avec Asianews)

 

Lawyers see rights abuses in detention of Beijing 'house church' members

South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, Verna Yu, Thursday, 13 February, 2014

Thirteen 'house church' members have been held for more than two weeks on claims that their gathering in Beijing last month was illegal

Lawyers yesterday expressed concern over the fate of 13 "house church" Christians who have been detained for more than two weeks after they tried to hold a bible study meeting on the outskirts of Beijing.

The two lawyers, who on Tuesday were allowed for the first time to visit Xu Yonghai - the leader of Shengai, or Holy Love, Christian Fellowship - and petitioner Xu Caihong, said the Christians had been accused of taking part in "illegal assemblies and demonstrations" and put in criminal detention at the Beijing No1 Detention Centre.

Their families have not been formally notified, they said. According to an account Xu Yonghai posted online, he and more than a dozen Christians travelled to the Tongzhou district of the capital on January 24 for bible study at the home of former dissident Zhang Wenhe .

Zhang was temporarily detained by police at the time so they could not meet, but later in the day they returned to Zhang's home to bring him medicine for his heart conditions.

When they were there, police burst in and took them away to be held at a police station. Xu was released early the next day, but was detained again on January 26.

Lawyer Liang Xiaojun said Xu Yonghai, a former doctor once jailed for sending an essay on church persecution to a US magazine, had been fasting since he was detained. "He was in good spirits, but said he would continue fasting and praying," Liang said. He said Xu was puzzled as to why the authorities took action against his fellowship, which is in its 25th year.

"He said he was embarrassed that these people only wanted to hear him preach and they got arrested," Liang said.

Xu wrote in his account that while in custody the Christians were repeatedly asked whether they were in the Shijingshan district of the capital on January 22, the day when rights advocate Xu Zhiyong was put on trial in the area. Several petitioners in the church group had demonstrated outside the court.

Beijing Public Security Bureau did not respond to a faxed request for comment yesterday.

Hu Shigen , another fellowship leader and a former dissident who spent 16 years in jail, said exactly a week before the Christians were detained an official from the Tongzhou district ethnic affairs committee interrupted a bible study meeting at Zhang's home and accused believers of attending an illegal assembly.

Hu believed the authorities wanted to suppress the fellowship because it was attended by mostly petitioners to the government and former dissidents.

Although fewer than 20 people turn up usually, "they do not like the 'hostile elements' getting together", Hu said.

The Tongzhou district ethnic affairs committee did not respond to inquiries yesterday.

Both lawyers said they were concerned about the police's use of arbitrary detention. "This is an abuse of the detention system for the sake of stability maintenance," said Liang.

Lawyer Yu Wensheng said the Christians' detention would end on February 25, but it was unclear whether they would be immediately released.

Under mainland law, people can be held for up to 37 days in criminal detention after which police can pass the case to prosecutors or release them on bail.

 

Chine: une secte arrtŽe

AFP PubliŽ le 20/12/2012

Prs de mille membres de la secte chrŽtienne Dieu Tout Puissant, qui prŽdit des cataclysmes pour la fin du calendrier maya le 21 dŽcembre, ont ŽtŽ arrtŽs dans plusieurs provinces chinoises, a rapportŽ aujourd'hui un quotidien chinois.

Outre les 400 arrestations dŽjˆ annoncŽes mardi par les autoritŽs de la province du Qinghai (dans le nord-ouest), 357 membres de la secte "ont fait l'objet d'une enqute et ont ŽtŽ sanctionnŽs" dans la province pauvre du Guizhou (dans le sud-ouest), selon le Xinjing Bao (Nouvelles de PŽkin).

Ce journal fait aussi Žtat de 37 membres de la secte apprŽhendŽs dans la ville de Foshan, prs de Canton (sud), dont 27 ont ŽtŽ placŽs en dŽtention, ainsi que de "plusieurs dizaines" de fidles interpellŽs ˆ Wuxi, dans la province orientale du Jiangsu, dont 11 sont restŽs en dŽtention.

Des arrestations ont Žgalement eu lieu en Mongolie intŽrieure (dans le nord), dans le Jiangxi et le Fujian (dans le sud-est) et dans le Xinjiang (dans le nord-ouest), selon la mme source.

Les prŽdictions d'apocalypse se sont multipliŽes en Chine ˆ la suite du succs du film hollywoodien "2012", en partie inspirŽ par la supposŽe prophŽtie liŽe ˆ la fin du "compte long" du calendrier maya.

 

Qinghai officials crack down on Church of Almighty God cult

South China Morning Post, 17 December, 2012

Authorities in Qinghai detain core members of cult that promises to save those who give up all possessions before the impending ÔapocalypseÕ

Authorities on the mainland have stepped up their crackdown on a radical religious sect promising salvation to people who give up their belongings before "doomsday" strikes on Friday.

Police in Xining, capital of the northwestern province of Qinghai, have detained seven "core" members of the Church of the Almighty God, also known as Lightning of the East, and 30 other members in a raid on Thursday night, Qinghai provincial government's official news portal qhnews.com reported yesterday. Police confiscated a lot of illegal material, including pamphlets on the cult, banners, discs and printing equipment, the report said.

Officials in northern Shaanxi province last week detained several sect followers for handing out pamphlets on buses, parks and other public areas. They were asking recruits to hand over all their possessions, according to the Huashang Daily, of Xian.

The report did not say how many people had been arrested, although the Xian Evening News reported on Tuesday that seven people were arrested for handing out doomsday-themed pamphlets on a bus last weekend.

An officer at the Shaanxi Public Security Bureau's publicity office confirmed a crackdown against the group, but declined to provide further details.

The sect did not respond to an inquiry from the Post.

The sect, founded in 1989 in northeastern Heilongjiang province, has denounced the Communist Party as the "great red dragon". It is listed as an "evil cult" by the central government.

The sect, which says a mainland woman is the second coming of Jesus Christ, is notorious among Christian communities for its strong-arm tactics when recruiting.

By emphasising the coming of judgment day, the sect has attracted thousands of Christians over the past two decades. Its recruiting efforts appear to have intensified as anxiety grows over December 21, the date according to the ancient Mayan calendar on which the world will end.

Christians, fearing that the group could undermine their own standing, have campaigned against them.

"They have created an illusion that the church was spreading the 'doomsday' rumour, and such activities have deeply tarnished the reputation of the church," said Chen Dingliang , secretary general of the Shaanxi Christian Society.

On its website, the society says the sect is controlled by a high priest who extracts favours from followers that only he and the group's claimed prophet can enjoy. It accuses the group of recruiting followers with promises of sex, money and drugs and even threatening violence.

 

China bishop, named by Rome, held in seminary

July 10,2012

By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese priest who publicly quit the state-sanctioned Catholic Church and was made bishop with the pope's approval was taken away by officials last weekend and is being held in his seminary, a source said on Tuesday, in a move likely to further strain relations between Beijing and the Vatican.

The incident is the latest sticking point in a long-running dispute over the status of China's state-backed church, which rejects papal control. Beijing and the Vatican differ over who has the authority to appoint bishops.

Thaddeus Ma Daqin's movements have been restricted since he was taken away by officials on Saturday shortly after he was ordained auxiliary bishop of Shanghai with the approval of the pope, the source close to the Vatican told Reuters by telephone.

The source cited more than 10 sources who had direct knowledge of the situation, but declined to be named, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

Repeated calls to the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association went unanswered. A Vatican spokesman confirmed the ordination but declined to comment further.

Ma announced he was leaving the Communist Party-run Patriotic Catholic Association in Shanghai on Saturday, AsiaNews, a Catholic online news service reported on Monday.

Asked why the authorities are restricting Ma's movements, the source said: "It's very clear. From the words of what he (Ma) pronounced, certainly this is not according to the will of somebody."

The source said China often restricts the movements of Vatican-approved bishops.

The source said Ma, who is now in the Sheshan seminary in Shanghai, had failed to appear in church last Sunday to celebrate Mass. Calls to the seminary went unanswered.

Chinese Catholics number between 8-12 million, and are divided between a state-sanctioned church that has installed bishops without Vatican approval and an "underground" wing long wary of associating with the Communist Party-run church.

China and the Vatican broke off formal diplomatic relations shortly after the Chinese Communists took power in 1949. Pope Benedict has, however, encouraged the two sides of the divided Chinese church to reconcile, and engaged in a low-key dialogue with Beijing about political ties.

The Vatican has previously condemned what it called "external pressures and constrictions" on Catholics in China.

(Additional reporting by Steve Scherer in Rome and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Ken Wills<http://blogs.reuters.com/search/journalist.php?edition=us&n=ken.wills&> and Jonathan Thatcher<http://blogs.reuters.com/search/journalist.php?edition=us&n=jonathan.thatcher&>)

 

Deux Žvques chinois clandestins libŽrŽs ˆ P‰ques

LA CROIX - MONDE _ 16/04/2012

 

Deux Žvques chinois non-reconnus par le gouvernement chinois ont ŽtŽ libŽrŽs par les autoritŽs le Dimanche de P‰ques, annonce l_agence UcaNews, citant des sources ecclŽsiastiques chinoises.

Mgr Pierre Shao Zhumin, Žvque de Wenzhou, au Zhejiang (est), et Mgr Pierre Jin Lugang, Žvque de Nanyang (centre), Žtaient dŽtenus depuis respectivement quatre semaines et quatre jours.

Selon de sources ecclŽsiastiques locales, Mgr Shao, 49 ans, avait ŽtŽ arrtŽ le 19 mars dernier et aurait ŽtŽ dŽtenu dans le diocse de Leshan, au Sichuan (sud-ouest) dont l_Žvque, Mgr Paul Lei Shiyin a ŽtŽ excommuniŽ suite ˆ son ordination sans mandat pontifical en juin. Sa dŽtention aurait inclus un lavage de cerveau au cours d_enseignements sur la politique religieuse du pays.

Mgr Shao aurait ŽtŽ arrtŽ dans un contexte de grande inquiŽtude concernant une ordination Žpiscopale clandestine ˆ Tianshui, dans le Gansu (nord-ouest), ˆ laquelle il aurait pris part l_annŽe dernire. Les autoritŽs sont prŽoccupŽes par cette ordination vue comme un acte de dŽfiance vis-ˆ-vis des Žlections et ordinations dŽcidŽes par l_&EACUTE;glise officielle , ont confiŽ des sources ˆ UcaNews.

De son c™tŽ, Mgr Jin avait ŽtŽ arrtŽ jeudi 4 avril, les autoritŽs souhaitant l_empcher de cŽlŽbrer la messe chrismale et les autres cŽlŽbrations pascales. Il a ŽtŽ dŽtenu dans une maison d_h™tes.

 

Deux Žvques chinois clandestins libŽrŽs ˆ P‰ques

Infocatho16 avril 2012

Deux Žvques chinois non-reconnus par le gouvernement chinois ont ŽtŽ libŽrŽs par les autoritŽs le dimanche de P‰ques. Ils Žtaient dŽtenus depuis respectivement quatre semaines et quatre jours.??Selon des source ecclŽsiastiques locales, Mgr Pierre Shao Zhumin, Žvque de Wenzhou, au Zhejiang, et Mgr Pierre Jin Lugang, Žvque de Nanyang, avaient ŽtŽ arrtŽs, Mgr Shao le 19 mars et Mgr Jin le 4 avril.??Leur dŽtention aurait inclus un lavage de cerveau au cours d_enseignements sur la politique religieuse du pays.??Mgr Shao aurait ŽtŽ arrtŽ dans un contexte de grande inquiŽtude concernant une ordination Žpiscopale clandestine ˆ Tianshui, dans le Gansu, ˆ laquelle il aurait pris part l_annŽe dernire. Les autoritŽs sont prŽoccupŽes par cette ordination vue comme un acte de dŽfiance vis-ˆ-vis des Žlections et ordinations dŽcidŽes par l_&EACUTE;glise officielle , ont confiŽ des sources ˆ UcaNews.??De son c™tŽ, Mgr Jin a ŽtŽ arrtŽ jeudi 4 avril, parce que les autoritŽs souhaitait l_empcher de cŽlŽbrer la messe chrismale et les autres cŽlŽbrations pascales. Il a ŽtŽ dŽtenu dans une "maison d_h™tes" et non dans une prison. (source : Ucanews)

 

Underground_ bishops released

Prelates taken on guided tour, urged to cooperate more with authorities

ucanews.com reporter, Wenzhou, April 16, 2012

Two Chinese bishops not recognized by the government were freed by authorities on Easter Sunday, according to Church sources.

Coadjutor Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou in eastern Zhejiang province and Bishop Peter Jin Lugang of Nanyang in central Henan province were detained for three weeks and four days respectively.

Bishop Shao was detained on March 19. Local Church sources said his detention included a brainwashing learning class on the country_s religious policies.

Government officials expressed great concern over the secret Episcopal ordination of the Bishop of Tianshui in north-western Gansu province last year, in which Bishop Shao and four other underground bishops took part.

The sources said this was the main reason why Bishop Shao was detained.

Central government has attached importance to the ordination, which it sees as an act of defiance to the official Church_s self-election and self-ordination_ of bishops, said the sources.

Bishop Shao was also warned to restrain himself and not to travel too extensively to visit Wenzhou Catholics who do business across the country.

The 49-year-old prelate had been taken sightseeing in south-western Sichuan province. He was escorted by government officials to Leshan diocese where he met the excommunicated Father Paul Lei Shiyin, who received Episcopal ordination without a papal mandate last June.

Fr Lei and the officials showed Bishop Shao a Church-run hospital, guesthouse and the construction site of the new bishop_s house.

Bishop Shao was told it was rare honor for the Catholic Church in Leshan to enjoy such development considering is proximity to an area held sacred by Chinese Buddhism, the sources said.

Then, they visited some historic monuments to the Long March (1934-36), where the officials told Bishop Shao that  building a country is not easy and urged him to cooperate with the government.

The bishop told them he is not opposed to cooperation as long as it does not go against the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

Father Paul Jiang Sunian, Chancellor of Wenzhou, who was detained with Bishop Shao, was released on March 24.

Meanwhile, Bishop Jin was taken away on April 4, Holy Thursday, by officials wanting to prevent him from celebrating the Chrism Mass, which symbolizes a bishop_s communion with his clergy, and other Easter liturgies.

The prelate was detained in a guesthouse and taken by four officials to several tourist spots before being released on Easter Sunday, according to Church sources.

 

China subjects Catholic bishops, priests to political sessions

April 18, 2012

By China News Center

Two Chinese bishops of the underground Church have been released by police after having been held for political sessions in which they were pressured to cooperate with the Catholic Patriotic Association. The AsiaNews service reports that dozens of priests are being temporarily detained to attend similar sessions.

Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin, coadjutor of the Wenzhou diocese, had been arrested and held for 4 weeks. During that time he was allowed to visit Lei Shiyin, a bishop who was ordained last July without permission from the Vatican and consequently excommunicated; Chinese authorities clearly were holding up Bishop Lei as a model for Bishop Shao to emulate.

Bishop Peter Jing Lugang Nanyang of Henan was taken into custody on Holy Thursday and released on Easter Sunday_too late to lead his diocese in the liturgical ceremonies of the Easter Triduum. Government officials told him during his holiday that he should join the Patriotic Association.

A recent rise in the number of bishops and priests subjected to these political sessions has been interpreted by Chinese Catholics as a move by the government to encourage loyalty to the Patriotic Association in advance of the Communist Party Congress that will be held in October. The Chinese government has established a pattern of cracking down on ideological enemies in advance of major Party meetings.

 

Two underground bishops released, but many priests are arrested

Wang Zhicheng _ AsiaNews.it _ 04/17/2012

Bishop Shao Zhumin was arrested for four weeks, interrogated, brought on "vacation" away from his diocese, "recommended" to join the Patriotic Association. The model to follow: the excommunicated bishop Lei Shiyin. Bishop Jin Lugang detained for four days so he would not celebrate the Easter Triduum with the community. Dozens of underground priests are held for weeks and subjected to "political sessions". First the security of Communist Party's Congress and plan to eliminate the underground Church.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Two bishops of the underground community, not recognized by the Chinese government, were released after a period of "political sessions". But sources tell AsiaNews that every week dozens of unofficial priests of the communities are taken and forced to attend lectures on the government's religious policy and only released after week.On Easter Sunday, Mgr. Peter Shao Zhumin, coadjutor bishop of Wenzhou (Zhejiang) and Msgr. Peter Jin Lugang Nanyang (Henan) were able to return to their homes. The two were held, respectively, for four weeks and four days.??Msgr. Shao was arrested in March (see: 07/04/2012 Police pressure on underground community. Easter in the Church of Silence). His arrest was due mainly to gain information from him on the ordination of an underground bishop in Tianshui, in a clear "disobedience" to the politics of self-elections and self-ordinations wanted by the government (see: 24/08/2011 Tianshui: police arrest dozens of underground priests and lay faithful).

The bishop was also subjected to political sessions to subscribe to the Patriotic Association (PA), which promotes a national church independent from the Holy See. The prelate was also brought on a "vacation-visit" to the diocese of Leshan (Sichuan), led by bishop Lei Shiyin, ordained on July 14 without the permission of the pope and excommunicated. Bishop Lei showed the buildings under construction in his diocese, and government representatives "recommended" cooperation with the government. Local sources quoted by UCAN said that Bishop Shao he was in favour of collaboration, provided that it is not against "the one, holy, catholic and apostolic".??Msgr. Jin Lugang was arrested on April 4, Holy Thursday and freed on Easter. His detention prevented him from  celebrating any of the Holy Triduum or Easter liturgies. The police and government officials took him "on holiday" and also "advised" him to join the PA.??AsiaNews sources confirm that this style of detention, political sessions, "advice" to join the Patriotic Association and release after a few weeks has become very common this year. "Dozens of priests are taken every week - sources say - and are released only after several days." In many areas, including Hebei, all underground communities are afraid of arrest and fear has stopped the activities of the faithful. "Even the controls are more avid: home visits, telephone, internet .. they don't miss anything."??According to some, the increase in arrests and controls is due to the attempt to provide security before the Communist Party Congress, to be held next October, during which the leadership of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao will change hands. For others there is a clear pattern of wanting to hasten the demise of the underground community by absorbing them into the official church.

 

Jiangsu Authorities Order Unregistered Pastor To Serve Two Years of Reeducation Through Labor

CEC on China, November 21, 2011

In late July 2011, authorities in Suqian city, Jiangsu province, ordered pastor Shi Enhao to serve two years in reeducation through labor (RTL) in connection to his activities as an unregistered pastor, including setting up churches and holding gatherings that authorities deemed illegal. Public security authorities in Jiangsu have harassed or detained Shi several times since March 2011. Shi is a leader in a network of unregistered Protestant congregations whose members associate across multiple provinces, and the RTL order came during a time when official sensitivities were heightened toward members of unregistered Protestant congregations.

In late July 2011, authorities in Suqian city, Jiangsu province, ordered unregistered pastor Shi Enhao to serve two years of reeducation through labor (RTL), a form of administrative punishment without trial, according to international media reports dated July 25, 2011, (ChinaAid Association (CAA)) and July 26, 2011, (Associated Press (AP), via Yahoo!; AsiaNews; Radio Free Asia (RFA)). Fellow unregistered pastor Zhang Mingxuan reportedly told RFA that the charges against Shi included "[holding] illegal gatherings" and "[setting up] illegal churches." Such charges appear to violate Articles 18 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 18 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provide for freedom of religion, the freedom to manifest one's belief through, among other things, practice and worship, and freedom of peaceful association. China has signed the ICCPR and has stated that it is preparing to ratify it (National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010), sec. V(1), via Xinhua). According to the RFA article, Shi's lawyer Zhang Kai said that Suqian public security officials refused to let Zhang visit Shi in custody because the case involved "secrets." Under China's legal framework for state secrets, officials have wide latitude to declare almost any matter of public concern a state secret. Zhang reportedly also said that authorities seized approximately 100,000 yuan (US$15,500) from Shi's church.

Suqian Officials Harass Shi Enhao Several Times Since March

Public security officials in Jiangsu have harassed and detained Shi several times since March 2011 in apparent connection to his activities as an unregistered pastor. According to CAA (7 March 11) and RFA (10 March 11), on March 4, 2011, officials from Suqian disrupted a house church meeting in Nanyang city, Henan province, and detained Shi, who had been preaching at the gathering. Officials held Shi in a hotel and then returned him to his home in Suqian on March 6. According to RFA (6 March 11), however, authorities reportedly instructed him not to travel anywhere during the meetings of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, held later that month. Shi reportedly told RFA that officials hired several unidentified people to prevent him from leaving his home, and some of those people beat him and took money and personal items from him. Sources do not indicate when officials released Shi from home confinement, but according to CAA (15 June 11, 15 June 11), beginning on May 31, 2011, public security officials in Suqian held him in administrative detention for 12 days. Public security officials released him on June 12 but took him into custody again the same day, eventually issuing a criminal detention notice dated June 21. The detention notice, issued by the Sucheng District Public Security Bureau, Suqian (via a July 5, 2011, CAA article), stated that officials suspected Shi of "using superstition to undermine the implementation of the law," which appears to be a reference to Article 300 of China's Criminal Law. In some cases, authorities have detained other unregistered Protestants on suspicion of "cult"-related activity—language that also can be found in Article 300—and authorities often use "cult"-related charges to detain or sentence Falun Gong practitioners (for more information on these issues and related cases, see this October 27, 2010, CECC analysis).

Harassment and Detention Occurs During Time of Sensitivity to Unregistered Protestants

Shi's harassment, detentions, and RTL punishment appear to have occurred during a period of heightened official sensitivity toward unregistered Protestant communities in various locations throughout China (for more information on government actions against these communities, see this July 1, 2011, CECC analysis). Official reports from Suqian indicate that Suqian authorities had begun targeting unregistered Protestant communities several months before Shi's March detention. A December 18, 2010, report from the Suqian Municipal People's Government describes efforts by authorities in Suqian to "focus on improving effective control of 'house church' activities, as well as vigorously reducing the space and frequency of their activities." Another December 18, 2010, report from the Suqian Municipal People's Government describes efforts to work with the 6-10 Office—an extralegal Party organization that implements the ban on Falun Gong and in some cases targets other unregistered religious communities—and the domestic security protection unit of the public security bureau to ban worship gathering sites established outside of government oversight.

Shi reportedly is a vice president of the Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA), which the Ministry of Civil Affairs banned on November 28, 2008, for "engaging in activities as a social organization on its own initiative, without registering" (see a notice on the China Social Organizations Web site, a Web site owned and operated by the State Administration for the Management of Social Organizations). Authorities appear to have targeted other individuals who had contact with the CHCA in the past year. For example, according to CAA (17 April 11), in April 2011, public security officials in Zaozhuang city, Shandong province, took into custody seven members of a house church, including several leaders, who had had contact with Shi Enhao and Zhang Mingxuan, vice president and president of the CHCA. According to the same report, authorities in Linyi city, Shandong, also reportedly detained two unregistered Protestants who had hosted Zhang Mingxuan during a visit.

 

Bishop, priest taken for learning classes_

Will be released if they are 'intelligent enough in their learning,' officials say

ucanews.com reporter, Beijing, March 22, 2012

Coadjutor Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou and his chancellor Father Paul Jiang Sunian were spirited away this week to attend learning classes, sources say.

Bishop Shao, 49, was appointed by the Holy See in to lead Wenzhou_s underground community in 2007 and is not recognized by the government.

He and Fr Jiang were taken on Monday.

If Bishop Shao and Father Jiang are intelligent enough in their learning, they will be allowed back soon; if not, they will be detained longer, local Church sources quoted government officials as saying.

This implies their release depends on whether they accept the government_s religious policies, one of the sources said.

Among 17 underground priests, a few of them have been summoned to meet with religious officials in the past two days, the sources said.

Some were told to remain behind while others were allowed to return home the same day, they added.

Though no official reasons have been given, the sources suspect the recent events may be linked to the secret episcopal ordination in Tianshui diocese in Gansu province last year.

Government officials are investigating who was involved in the ordination, they said.

Bishop John Wang Ruowang of Tianshui was taken away for learning classes at an undisclosed location in January.

A Church observer who asked not to be named said China_s religious policy is moving backwards and is reflected in the current situation with the Catholic Church and with the 30 Tibetan monks and nuns who have self-immolated in?the fight for religious freedom.

The spate of detentions of underground clergy since the fall of last year was a decision coming from the government, he noted.

On March 2, a bureau chief of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China told a joint meeting of leaders of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China that he hoped the two Church bodies could do a good job in converting the underground community.

In May 1994, Gao Feng, a devout Christian, was arrested in Beijing for planning a private worship service and candlelight vigil to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Gao was a 26-year  employee of Beijing Jeep, ChryslerÕs joint venture with the Chinese government. Gao was accused of violating Chinese laws against the practice of religion outside of a state-authorized venue. Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution nominally provides for freedom of religious belief; however, the government restricts religious practice to government-sanctioned organizations. State Council Regulation 145 requires all worship-places to register with government religious affairs bureaus and thereby to come under the supervision of official ÔpatrioticÕ religious organizations. There are almost 85,000 approved venues for religious activities in China. Many religious groups have been reluctant to comply, either out of opposition to state control of religion or due to fear of adverse consequences if they reveal, as the regulations require, the names and addresses of church leaders.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, endorsed by UN resolution in 1948, states: ÒArticle 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.     Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.     Article 20. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. (2) No one may be compelled to belong to any association.Ó

According to press reports, Gao was detained by the government for 5 weeks, without formal charge. In early July, he returned to work at Beijing Jeep and told his supervisor that the Chinese Public Safety Bureau had imprisoned him for over a month. Chrylser asked Gao to produced proof of his detention. The Chinese police gave Gao a note that said he had been detained for 3 days and then released without trial. Beijing JeepÕs general manager was faced with a tough decision. The Chinese joint venture partner was pressuring Chrylser to fire Gao. If the manager did not fire him, millions of dollars of ChryslerÕs invested capital in China would be put at risk. If, however, Chrysler fired Gao Feng, the company would become complicit in the violation of his rights to religious freedom and political expression.

One of the keys to success in the Chinese market is good relations with the Communist Party, which keeps rigid control over the economy. Multinational corporations spend years cultivating good guanxi or connections in China. They are thus extremely vulnerable to retaliation. At the time of the Gao Feng incident, for example, Chrysler was aware that failure to accede to the governmentÕs request could result in losing a valuable minivan contract to its German competitor Daimler –Benz.

- Adapted from Ethical Theory & Business,eds. Beauchamp, Bowie & Arnold (Prentice Hall, 2009), 651-52.

 

Reading between the lines of the Vatican rift

Published: July 27th, 2011 From Asia Times

The rift between

 China and the Holy See is deepening as it enters the rutted territory where Rome and Beijing historically have something in common: convoluted political procedure.

The issue is extremely complicated, but for once, it is worth delving into the details, as they are very revealing of the political predicament in China regarding the crucial question of freedom of belief.

On July 25, a spokesman for ChinaÕs Bureau of Religion claimed that Òthe VaticanÕs threat of so-called excommunicationÓ after the ordination of the bishops of Leshan and Shantou was unreasonable and cruel, and hurt the feelings of Chinese Catholics. ÒThis made a large number of members of the Church

suffer, and we are paying very serious attention to this,Ó said the statement, which was issued only in Chinese by the official Xinhua News Agency, and thus meant for the domestic audience.

The statement didnÕt mention the role of the pope, whose blessing, according to Catholic faith, is necessary for the appointment of bishops. But it argued that the Òthreat of so-called excommunication gave the reason that the two bishops were appointed without the permission of the VaticanÓ. (Emphasis added).

The phrase Òpermission of the VaticanÓ appears to be deliberately vague and possibly misleading. In a way, it is correct, as ÒVaticanÓ implies the role of the pope and ÒpermissionÓ implies the religious blessings of the pope that make the Church one, unitary, and Catholic. In so representing the case, the statement implies an issue of political infringement by a political (not religious) foreign authority (the Vatican) in ChinaÕs internal affairs.

The statement doesnÕt challenge the issue of the permission of the Vatican. However, based on this political representation of the facts, the bureau claims that for the past 50 years, the Chinese Catholic Church was exposed to the threat of excommunication, which has Òcaused a deep historical wound to a large part of the Chinese Catholics, and this has steeled the Chinese Catholic Church on its path of self-appointment of the bishopsÓ.

People acquainted with Catholic issues carefully crafted the statement. By not mentioning the pope and even not clearly challenging the ÒVaticanÕs permissionÓ, the statement is the first official admission from China of the religious role of the pope in the Catholic Church on the appointment of bishops. This sets an historical precedent, as it indicates that the Communist Party does not want any role in this religion and in principle allows the pope religious authority.

However, the real issue is political: who controls the Church as a socio-political entity in China? This is a gray area, as for the Church this has an important religious bearing, not simply socio-political. Even here the statement does not refute the pope or the VaticanÕs role in this. The real issue, to some Chinese Catholics, is Òthe deep historical woundÓ opened by the Vatican with the threat of excommunication.

It is also an issue of personal nature. If one thinks well, there are people who genuinely believe they have contributed to survival of the Church, and they are offended because Rome doesnÕt recognize their efforts and has cast them away. If one thinks evil, these people are the de facto owner of the structure of the Church in China, they have owned it for 50 years, and they are unwilling to surrender it to people who until only a few years ago were underground and refused to break bread with them.

If, as a letter from the pope in 2007 has recognized, there is only one Catholic Church, then the structure of the official Church is de facto taking control of everything. Moreover, people in Rome believed that if Rome told the bishops not to take part in the illicit ordination, the bishops would obey. In fact, many bishops in China, though loyal to Rome, are perplexed by some of the VaticanÕs decisions and believe that it is impossible to not collaborate with the Chinese authorities.

These gray areas disguise a basic fact that the Catholic Church in China has grown away from RomeÕs embrace, and in some instances, it is de facto schismatic. These Church leaders do not want to announce and open the schism because now, in their present position, they can politically blackmail both Rome and Beijing: to Beijing they say they have to accommodate to Rome, and to Rome they say they canÕt turn down Beijing. If these leaders were to be openly schismatic, they would lose the present leeway with Beijing, and in return would push their Church to the extreme. These are fighters and careful manipulators who survived decades of intricacies and the pitfalls of both communism and Curia. They canÕt be underestimated.

The solution, like with all schismatic churches, is to sow both sides slowly back together.

The true political solution is the one the Vatican has adopted with all schismatic churches, such as the church of Marcel Lefebvre, which Pope Benedict XVI has reconciled with Rome: slow and careful political mending of fences and recognition of the local political powers. Here, the issue is only political, as religiously there is no gap.

 

Beijing's Theology of Repression

China is cracking down on Christians who consider God, not the

Communist Party, the head of the church.

By DAVID AIKMAN

JULY 11, 2011

Wall Streezt Journal : http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304760604576428260216373754.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill," Puritan John Winthrop famously preached to fellow immigrants to America aboard the Arbella in 1630. At least two American presidents in the 20th century, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, have quoted him, and his words have resonated for many Americans ever since, reminding them of their spiritual obligations, not just to each other, but to the whole

world.

If Winthrop were alive today, he would undoubtedly be heartened to see his words quoted in the quarterly magazine of Shouwang Church, one of Beijing's largest unsanctioned "house" churches (shouwang means "keeping watch" in Chinese). He would share, too, the anguish of the church members at their continued intimidation by the authorities. Since early April, police have prevented church members from gathering

for normal Sunday worship services_albeit at an outdoor plaza and not a church building. Hundreds have been detained for short periods and the entire church leadership has been under house arrest since April.

Ironically, Shouwang Church, whose 1,000-strong congregation is mostly upscale professionals, actually paid $4 million for meeting space in a Beijing office building. But under pressure from the authorities, the sellers refused to hand over the keys, leaving the church with no place to meet.

China tolerates Christian church services, but only within the narrow boundaries of theology and church life dictated by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, which oversees two Church umbrella groups, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and, for Protestants, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Estimates of the number of Christians in China vary widely, ranging from the TSPM's figure of about 20 million for its own churches to that of outside observers who say the total is as high as 130 million. The reason? Most Chinese Christians belong to unofficial house churches like

Shouwang, which reject Communist Party-controlled TSPM theology and consider God_not the Communist Party_the head of the church. The number of house-church Christians, while hard to estimate, is likely more than 60 million.

The recent crackdown on house-church Christians is the outgrowth of a Communist Party initiative launched last December, called "Operation Deterrence," to force all house-church Christians to be incorporated with the TSPM or suffer persecution. In light of the savage treatment of practitioners of Falun Gong, a meditation group brutally repressed since 1999, the implications of "Operation Deterrence" are alarming.

Shouwang Church was founded in 1993 by Jin Tianming, a graduate of Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University. Its steady growth is partly due to the increase in recent years of Christian converts among urban professionals, but it's also due to skillful self-administration. Its literary quarterly "Almond Flowers" recently published a detailed explanation of why Shouwang refused to join the TSPM.

Explaining that the TSPM was an outdated product of the Cold War, "Almond Flowers" asked, "Is there any reason for such an agency to exist today?" It pointed out that "the faith that the TSPM adheres to is what church history calls liberal theology, while the faith of the house churches is evangelical theology."

Evangelical churches around the world, of course, have always stressed the need for Christians to share their faith. The TSPM, however, forbids its members to evangelize. Last autumn, that ban meant the the TSPM was not able to attend the Lausanne Conference on World Evangelism because its representatives could not sign the mandatory Lausanne pledge to promote evangelism. It then stood back as authorities blocked some 200 invited Chinese house-church representatives who were willing to sign the pledge from leaving China.

The crackdown on Christians is part of a rising tide of rŽpression against dissent that's often accompanied by interrogations and torture. Recently, the wife of blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng said that she and her husband were beaten and tortured for several hours by a gang of plainclothes thugs led by the village Communist Party secretary. Worryingly, some of the Shouwang Church detainees found TSPM representatives taking part in the police interrogations, "educating" and "rebuking" the Shouwang Christians. Incredibly, TSPM Chairman Fu Xianyou denies that house churches even exist.

Sadly, the TSPM is often hosted in the United States by churches and organizations such as the World Evangelical Alliance and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which ought to know better. It was the Rev. Graham himself, during a 1988 visit to China, who took grŽ‰t pains to visit privately with one of China's most revered house-church heroes, Rev. Wang Mingdao. Wang had spent two decades in prison for his refusal to join the TSPM.

If America's churches are truly to be "as a city upon a hill," they should follow the Rev. Graham's example and help to shed light on the ongoing repression of their brethren in China.

Mr. Aikman, a former Beijing bureau chief for Time magazine, is the author of "Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China And Changing the Global Balance of Power" (Regnery, 2006).

 

Government recognizes underground_ bishop

Church sources say Holy See did not know about move or give any instruction to him

ucanews.com, Nanyang, June 30, 2011

Retired underground bishop Joseph Zhu Baoyu of Nanyang from central Henan province was installed as a government-recognized bishop today.

The prelate, 90, who was secretly consecrated in 1995 with Vatican approval, spent many years in detention or undergoing reform-through-labor. Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation last year.

Catholic sources said Bishop Zhu decided to seek recognition from the civil authorities in order to claim back Church properties that were confiscated during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

Nanyang diocese has about 20,000 Catholics scattered in Nanyang city, two districts and 11 counties in southwestern Henan.

Bishop John Baptist Yang Xiaoting of Yan_an, vice-president of the government-sanctioned Bishops_ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC), officiated at the installation ceremony.

Thirty priests from the local and neighboring dioceses concelebrated the morning Mass at the Nanyang Catholic Church. About 50 laypeople also attended.

Bishop Zhu_s decision is not out of personal interest, but for the diocese, one priest explained.

There are many churches yet to be returned. We can hardly protect our rights and interests [without government recognition].

With the prelate_s installation, the diocese can now legally claim back property and this will also benefit evangelistic work, he said.

According to Church sources, the Holy See did not know about Bishop Zhu_s move or give any instruction to him.

His decision also didn_t get the backing of all members in his diocese, including Coadjutor Bishop Peter Jin Lugang and almost half the 21 diocesan priests.

They believe religious affairs officials have been persuading Bishop Zhu to seek government recognition.

Some also think ambiguous policy of the Holy See have encouraged this outcome.

Government officials only allowed priests whom they trust to attend the installation. Bishop Jin was forbidden to leave his Church this morning, sources said, adding that they were worried Bishop Zhu_s installation would split the diocese.

Bishop Zhu, a Nanyang-native, was born in 1921. Less than a year after he was ordained a priest in 1957, he was arrested for his faith and sentenced to reform-through-labor. He returned to his hometown in 1967 and began to administer sacraments for Catholics secretly.

He was imprisoned for counter-revolutionary crimes in 1981 and was released on parole eight years later. After that he served as a parish priest until he was ordained a bishop in 1995.

 

Unshaken by threats of eviction and even jail, Shouwang Church members worship when and where they can

Verna Yu

May 08, 2011

"I was a little bit scared at first, but I trusted we were in the care of almighty God," said the 27-year-old finance executive, who spent his Easter weekend in custody. "I went with a peaceful heart."

Hue, who declined to disclose his full name for fear of reprisals, is one of hundreds of Christians from the Beijing-based Shouwang Church who have been risking detention, losing their jobs or being evicted by their landlords by defying government orders not to worship outdoors over the past month.

The 1,000-strong congregation of Shouwang - technically an illegal church because it is not approved by the state - has been trying to hold its Sunday services at a public plaza after official pressure forced its previous landlord to evict it from its usual place of worship last month. Officials also blocked the congregation from moving into a 1,500-square-metre office space the church had bought for 27 million yuan (HK$32 million).

Before Hue went out on Easter Sunday, he already knew he could be detained, because police had held dozens of his fellow church members on the past two Sundays. But he was undeterred.

"We just need somewhere to worship our Lord. We don't want to get involved with politics, but we have nowhere to worship, so we don't have a choice."

Police detained 169 worshippers the first Sunday, then nearly 50 the second week and more than 30 in each of the past two Sundays. The church will attempt to hold another outdoor service again today.

Some Christians have been detained two or three times, although many who have been in custody once have been stopped by police from leaving home on subsequent weekends. The six leaders of the church have been confined to their homes for weeks.

Last week, Hue, like many fellow Shouwang Christians who have been detained, had to move because the authorities pressured his landlord to evict him. He is lucky that he does not work in the state sector - many members who do are facing dismissal from their jobs.

Academics say the high-profile confrontation between Shouwang and the government is unprecedented in recent mainland church history and poses one of the most serious tests of church-state relations in years.

Shouwang, which means "to keep watch", had several run-ins with the government over the past few years, but its congregation continued to grow. In 2008, police raided one of its services, accusing it of illegal gathering; in 2009, it was evicted from its rented premises and worshipped in a park while its pastor was detained; last year, church leaders and members were turned back from the airport when they tried to travel to South Africa to participate in the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation. The authorities were angered that members of the unofficial churches sought to represent China.

Although the Christians' attempts to worship outdoors are seen by some as a bold public display of defiance, they insist they have no political agenda. They say they have no choice but to take to public spaces unless the authorities allow them to move into a permanent place of worship.

After the church was similarly forced to worship outdoors in November 2009, officials gave verbal approval for it to go back indoors in another rented space, but a little more than a year later, it was told to leave again.

The Reverend Jin Tianming , the pastor of the church, has said it has been forced to move more than 20 times since it was founded in 1993. Now, it is no longer willing to be made homeless every few months and wants the authorities to give it formal approval to worship freely in its own property without further harassment.

"This is a manifestation of our faith ... Jesus Christ is the head of the church, and the government cannot interfere with the church's faith," Jin said of the church's attempt to worship outdoors in an earlier phone interview. Jin, who has been under house arrest since April 9, could not be reached by phone during the past week.

Not a typical "house" church - small groups of Christians on the mainland holding clandestine services at home to escape persecution - Shouwang's fast-growing and dynamic congregation has long posed a headache for the central government, which bans religious services outside state-sanctioned churches.

Attended by a well-to-do and educated crowd - among them university lecturers, doctors, lawyers, NGO workers and even Communist Party members - Shouwang has come to symbolise a new breed of young urban Christians who are no longer contented to practise their faith in secret.

It resembles many thriving evangelical churches overseas. Led by a committee chosen by its members, the dynamic church has a choir, a Sunday school, Bible classes and charity initiatives. It even has its own magazine and a sophisticated website with video clips of sermons. Before it was evicted, it ran three services every Sunday.

Religious-affairs experts say that while the authorities have largely tolerated small gatherings of the unregistered churches, Shouwang's speed of growth, its influence and its development into an independent organisation have unnerved them. They do not tolerate independent groups outside the control of the Communist Party, but Shouwang has developed into just that.

From what began in 1993 as a gathering of fewer then 10 Christians worshipping in the one-bedroom flat of Jin, then a recent chemical-engineering graduate from prestigious Tsinghua University, the number of worshippers grew to about 300 in 2005, 600 in 2008 and about 1,000 now.

Religious-affairs experts say the clash between Shouwang and the authorities has come to symbolise the strained underground church-state relations on the mainland, which stems from the government's outdated religious policies and its failure to recognise that state-sanctioned churches can no longer serve the needs of a fast-growing Christian population.

The number of Christians on the mainland has grown dramatically in recent decades, from about 2 million 30 years ago to the current estimated 23 million (official figure released last year) to 130 million.

Liu Peng, a Beijing-based academic who studies church-state relations, estimates that about 50 million mainlanders are underground church members. Instead of suppressing them, he said the government should grant their churches legal status and allow them to worship freely.

He said the central government's model of the management of churches was simply outdated and its desire to have all Christians worship in state-sanctioned churches unrealistic.

"The growth in the number of Christians has outpaced the growth of the number of [approved] churches," he said. "It's like a child outgrowing his clothes. If there is no reform, there will only be more problems."

All religious bodies on the mainland are required to register with the government - a de facto authorisation procedure that weeds out all independent groups outside the control of the party. Shouwang has repeatedly tried to register with the authorities since 2006 but was always refused.

House churches took root soon after the Communist regime took over the mainland in 1949, when churches and religious establishments were forced to sever ties with Western churches, then seen as agents of "foreign imperialists".

Those who refused to come under the control of the state-sanctioned church in the so-called "Three-Self Patriotic Movement" in 1954 were driven underground and many church leaders were jailed.

Unregistered churches have come a long way since then, and many urban churches have become oases for young professionals who seek spiritual solace and moral guidance in an increasingly materialistic society - and they flourish as a result.

But despite continuous calls for the government to recognise these unofficial churches, there is no sign that it is prepared to shift its position any time soon.

The State Administration for Religious Affairs announced in January that its priority this year was to "guide Protestants at unregistered churches into worshipping at government-sanctioned ones", according to Xinhua.

Other fast-developing evangelical churches on the mainland have also been targets of similar crackdowns in the past couple of years. The Wanbang Church in Shanghai, Liangren Church in Guangzhou, and Qiuyuzhifu Church in Chengdu have all been evicted from their rented premises and have had to move from place to place, although none have been cracked down on as heavily as Shouwang.

But Christians who worship at unofficial churches are adamant that they will not join state-sanctioned churches, because they say they could not practice their faith freely in institutions controlled by the atheist Communist Party.

"The Three-Self church is not established on the foundation of faith. Things like who gets to preach and what is said in the sermon are controlled by the government," Hue said. "But the Bible says, `Besides me there is no God,' so I can't participate in that kind of church."

The persecution of Shouwang comes amid the mainland's harshest crackdown on dissent for years, prompted by government fears that revolts in the Arab world could spread to China. Dozens of dissidents and rights advocates have been detained or are facing charges.

Under such a tense political atmosphere, analysts fears the central government might run out of patience and launch an all-out crackdown to end the long-drawn-out confrontation.

"My rather pessimistic view is that the government will not allow this to drag on," said Professor Ying Fuk-tsang, a divinity scholar at Chinese University of Hong Kong. "In the worst scenario it might ban this church as an illegal organisation and arrest its leaders."

But Shouwang's church leaders and members say they are not afraid to go to jail. "There is such a possibility and we were mentally prepared for it right from the start. There is no turning back," said church elder Sun Yi, who is still under house arrest.

"But ... we're still hoping to reach a consensus that we can both accept and genuinely solve the problem."

Both sides have taken firm stances: the church refuses to disband or split into smaller groups and demands that the government allows it to take possession of its property; the government insists that Christians were taking part in illegal gatherings.

"Both sides have a very clear bottom line, so conflict is inevitable," said a mainland-based academic who researches house-church issues. "They have no common language - the church has its own set of logic and the government has its own set of logic. The government believes that whoever goes out on the street poses a threat to the government, and the church believes that whatever happens, they must carry on worshipping."

The long battle will hurt the church badly anyway, even if the authorities do not step up the crackdown, scholars say. The church will start losing its followers as those who do not wish to risk detention choose to worship elsewhere.

"We will definitely lose some people ... but I think Shouwang has a fundamental vision [of worshipping together], and through this test, people who are committed to that vision will stay,"

Sun said. "This is the most difficult test in the history of Shouwang. If we don't handle this well, the church might split into smaller groups."

The Shanghai-based Wanbang church, which had 1,000 followers, split into several groups after being evicted from its rented premises in 2009. Its pastor said it had lost several hundred congregation members.

But government efforts to suppress the church might prove counter-productive, as they seemed to have only bolstered the Christians' beliefs. Shouwang's faithful believe God may have his purpose in this persecution: to spread the gospel to officials and police.

The church said in an online message: "We thank God for giving the church an opportunity, to enable the police to feel a sense of peace and freedom from Christ through these Christians."

In their testimonies posted on the internet, church members described heart-warming scenes of praying and singing hymns together in custody without hindrance and being filled with a sense of peace and joy. Some said they discussed their faith with police, some of whom were genuinely interested in Christianity.

"We have to give thanks that we were able to share our faith with the police ... some had never heard of the gospel, and some were pretty interested, too," Hue said.

An official at the State Administration for Religious Affairs refused to comment on questions related to Shouwang Church.

 

Des chrŽtiens protestent en Chine

AFP 12/05/2011

Un regroupement d'Eglises chrŽtiennes clandestines a pris l'initiative inhabituelle d'adresser aujourd'hui une pŽtition au parlement chinois pour demander la fin des persŽcutions et la libertŽ de culte en Chine.??Les pasteurs de 17 Eglises non enregistrŽes officiellement se plaignent dans cette pŽtition, adressŽe au prŽsident de l'AssemblŽe nationale populaire (ANP) Wu Bangguo, de la rŽpression visant ˆ la cessation des activitŽs de ces Eglises.??C'est la premire fois qu'un tel nombre d'Eglises clandestines demandent collectivement la libertŽ de religion en Chine communiste, a dŽclarŽ China Aid, association dont le sige est aux Etats-Unis, qui publie leur pŽtition sur son site internet.??"Ces six dernires dŽcennies (depuis l'arrivŽe au pouvoir du Parti communiste, NDLR) la libertŽ religieuse garantie aux chrŽtiens du pays par la Constitution de la RŽpublique populaire de Chine ne s'est pas traduite dans les faits", selon le texte.??Les auteurs de la pŽtition demandent ˆ l'ANP de se pencher sur la constitutionnalitŽ de la gestion des affaires religieuses par le gouvernement qui n'autorise la pratique de la foi qu'au sein d'Eglises reconnues par lui. Ils demandent Žgalement aux dŽputŽs d'adopter une loi protŽgeant les libertŽs religieuses.??Les catholiques et protestants en Chine sont divisŽs entre "officiels" appartenant ˆ ces Eglises sous la houlette du Parti communiste chinois (environ 20 millions, selon PŽkin) et les fidles des "Eglises du silence" clandestines, qui dŽpasseraient les 50 millions.

 

Over 30 Christians detained as church clampdown continues

Verna Yu in South China Morning Post

May 2, 2011

More than 30 Christians from one of the mainland's most influential unofficial churches were detained and dozens were confined to their homes yesterday, after they tried to worship outdoors in defiance of government orders amid a crackdown that has continued for four Sundays.

At least 31 members of Shouwang Church were taken away near its proposed place of worship amid a heavy police presence in Beijing's commercial Zhongguancun area, said Christians who declined to be named. The church's leaders - three pastors and three elders - remained under house arrest while many congregation members were prevented from leaving home.

The church's pastor, Jin Tianming , has been confined at home since April 9, the eve of the church's first attempted outdoor service. He could not be reached by phone yesterday.

Last week, he said many church members who had been detained on previous Sundays were stopped by police from going out on subsequent Sundays. Others were told by local police to sign statements promising not to worship outdoors again.

Three journalists from Al-Jazeera English who were trying to cover the event had been stopped by police outside the building where the service was supposed to take place, correspondent Melissa Chan said. They were required to hand over their videotape before being released.

The congregation has tried to worship on the podium terrace of a commercial building for the past four Sundays. Police detained 169 worshippers the first time, nearly 50 the second time and 36 on Sunday last week. Most were released within 24 hours in the first weeks, but last week some were held for 48 hours.

The church, which has nearly 1,000 members, lost its previous place of worship early last month after official pressure forced its landlord to evict it from a spacious film studio. Officials also blocked the congregation from moving into an office space the church had bought for 27 million yuan (HK$32 million).

The church, which has been evicted more than 20 times since 1993, had wanted the authorities to give it formal approval to worship freely on its own property without further harassment. It has tried to register with the government, but the state, which controls religious affairs, has repeatedly refused to give it authorisation.

Shouwang, which means "to keep watch", was criticised last week by the Global Times for "politicising" religious issues. In response, the church issued an online statement insisting that it had no political agenda and would go back indoors as long as it has "a guaranteed meeting place".

"Any speculation about the church having political motivation can easily be quashed," it said.

 

 

Police harass foreign reporters at banned Easter service

BROADCAST / PRINT MEDIA NEWS]

On April 24, CNN correspondent Stan Grant and his crew were briefly detained when they attempted to report on an unauthorized outdoor Easter service in downtown Beijing organized by Shouwang Church, an unregistered Protestant group that has complained of being denied an indoor meeting space. The journalists' credentials were confiscated, and hundreds of police officers prevented them from accessing the area. At least 36 church members who joined the congregation were taken into custody. Shouwang's senior pastor, Jin Tianming, is now under house arrest, and the church's website has been made inaccessible. At another Sunday service held by Shouwang in Beijing on April 10, Bill Schiller of the Toronto Star was interrogated for three hours after he took photographs of participants and the police.

 

Foreign journalist detained at church gathering

On April 10, Bill Schiller, the Toronto Star's Asia bureau chief, was detained and interrogated for three hours in Beijing after he took photographs at an unauthorized outdoor church service in the city's Zhongguancun district. More than 150 members of the Shouwang Protestant Church were also rounded up by the authorities; the church operates without government approval and has been barred from buying or renting space in which to worship. Schiller said he was asked to delete pictures from his camera, and had his government-issued press card confiscated. The police claimed he had conducted interviews in public without permission, a rule has been more strictly enforced since calls for a protest-driven "Jasmine Revolution" circulated on the internet in mid-February. Schiller's account of his experience, which comes amid a broader crackdown on journalists, bloggers, and other activists, adds to existing evidence that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has redefined the limits of permissible expression in the country, while resorting to extralegal tactics to suppress dissent. Zhou Yongkang, a CCP Politburo Standing Committee member who oversees the country's law enforcement bodies, is said to be one of the driving forces behind the current crackdown, including the recent disappearances of Chinese dissidents.

 

Beijing police halt unapproved church service

Apr 10,2011

BEIJING (AP) _ Beijing police on Sunday detained dozens of worshippers from an unapproved Christian church who were trying to hold services in a public space after they were evicted from their usual place of worship, a parishioner said.Leaders of the unregistered Shouwang church had told members to gather at an open-air venue in Beijing for Sunday morning services, but police, apparently alerted to their plans, taped off the area and took away people who showed up to take part.Chinese authorities have been on high alert for large public gatherings in the wake of anonymous online calls for anti-government protests modeled on demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa.No major protests have occurred in China following the calls, but the security crackdown they sparked has resulted in the arrest or detention of dozens of public interest lawyers, writers, intellectuals and activists.China's Communist government allows worship only in state-approved churches, but many Christians belong to unregistered congregations. Such "house churches" are subjected to varying degrees of harassment by authorities.More than 60 million Christians are believed to worship in China's independent churches, compared with about 20 million who worship in the state church, according to scholars and church activists.A church member who went to the gathering spot for services and managed to evade police told The Associated Press that about 200 people were taken away and were being held at a local school. Their cellphones were confiscated, said the man, who would give only his English name, Kane, for fear of police reprisals.An AP videographer saw about a dozen people escorted by police onto an empty city bus and driven away.Shouwang pastor Yuan Ling said by telephone that he was unable to go to the venue because police had put him under house arrest Saturday night. Yuan said he knew of at least six other church members who were also under house arrest.Yuan said fellow parishioners also told him that many worshippers were being held at a school in Beijing's Haidian district, though he wasn't sure of the exact number.Shouwang had been holding services at a Beijing restaurant until they were evicted last week.Ai Weiwei, an internationally known avant-garde artist who is also an outspoken government critic, became the highest-profile person targeted in the crackdown on dissent when he was detained at a Beijing airport a week ago. The Foreign Ministry says he is being investigated for alleged economic crimes, though Beijing police have yet to confirm he is in custody.Ai was last seen being led away by police at the airport after being barred from boarding a flight to Hong Kong.About 50 pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday demanded Ai's release, peacefully chanting "No to political persecution" outside the central Chinese government's liaison office. Opposition legislator Lee Cheuk-yan tossed a picture of Ai into the grounds of the compound.Former British colony Hong Kong enjoys Western-style civil liberties as part of its special semiautonomous status under Chinese rule.On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for Ai's release and criticized China for what she said was a deteriorating human rights situation in the first part of 2011.Clinton made the remarks while announcing the release of the U.S. State Department's annual assessment of human rights around the world. It said China stepped up restrictions on critics and tightened control of civil society in 2010 by limiting freedom of speech and Internet access.As it does each year, China fired back with its own report, accusing Washington of hypocrisy and criticizing the U.S. for its own human rights record, citing figures showing high crime, homelessness, racial discrimination, and killings of civilians and other abuses by U.S. forces overseas.The report pointed to the huge amount of money poured into last year's midterm congressional elections as a perversion of democracy, and accused Washington of advocating Internet freedom to boost its influence over other countries, while at the same time pursuing legal challenges to the WikiLeaks secret-spilling website."We hereby advise the U.S. government to take concrete actions to improve its human rights conditions, check and rectify its acts in the human rights field, and stop the hegemonistic deeds of using human rights issues to interfere in other countries' internal affairs," the report said.___Associated Press videographer David Wivell in Beijing and AP writer

 

Shouwang Church Easter plans foiled

BEIJING, April 24 (UPI) -- Leaders of China's independent Shouwang Church said police blocked their plans for Easter Sunday services in Beijing.

An estimated 500 members of the church were prevented from leaving their homes Sunday and another 36 were detained, including the chief pastor, who was said to be under house arrest.

CNN said it tried to send a crew to cover the services, but they were turned away and had their press credentials confiscated by police.

Shouwang Church is one of largest independent "house" churches in China and has repeatedly sparred with government authorities. CNN said police officers told them they were on the scene for "security reasons."

Chief Pastor Jin Tianming told CNN his flock would not be discouraged by the setback. "We will not change our decision to worship as this is a matter of faith," he said.

 

Shouwang again

From Agence France Press via SCMP (20 avril 2011):

An unregistered mainland Protestant church urged its followers yesterday to ignore government warnings and risk being arrested by attending Easter services in Beijing at the weekend.

In an appeal posted on its Google Buzz page, the Shouwang Church warned that police would likely detain those gathering at a set meeting site, but that it was more important that followers stood up for their faith.

Beijing police have rounded up scores of church followers after they sought to hold outdoor services in Beijing's university district over the past two Sundays. Most were released after 24 hours. The police action comes amid a widening crackdown on dissidents, civil rights lawyers and activists, including the disappearance into police custody of Ai Weiwei , an outspoken artist who is widely known for his political activism.

"The courage that we sacrifice becomes the peace between the oppressor and the oppressed," the church said. "Our sole desire is that we can awaken the conscience of our rulers through our peaceful and holy action of sacrifice. We also hope that this action can dissipate the hatred between people ... Only in this way can we really love our government."

The Shouwang church, one of Beijing's largest unregistered churches, was forced outdoors after the government blocked the rental of its previous place of worship and prevented it from buying a new meeting place, the church said.

On Saturday, senior church Pastor Jin Tianming and several other leaders were detained, but later released into house arrest.

Beijing's widening crackdown on dissent comes after anonymous calls on the internet for so-called jasmine protests on Sunday, similar to those that have rocked the Arab world.

The church has denied it has any links to these rally calls.

"We again reiterate that the Shouwang church is a church of Jesus Christ and we are not under the control of, or being used by, any domestic or foreign organisation," yesterday's statement said. The church set up its Google Buzz page, a Twitter-like microblog service, after its China-based webpage was shut down recently.

Although freedom of religion is enshrined in China's constitution, all religious groups are required to register with the government and worship in officially sanctioned churches.

About 15 million Protestants and 5 million Catholics worship at official churches on the mainland, according to recent official data. But more than 50 million others are believed to pray at underground or "house" churches.

 

Beijing church faces eviction in tense times

By Chris Buckley and Sui-Lee Wee Chris Buckley And Sui-lee Wee _ Sun Apr 3, 2011, 7:48 am ET

BEIJING (Reuters) _ Tears flowed at one of Beijing's biggest "house" churches when some 300 Chinese Christians prayed on the last Sunday before they face eviction from their makeshift place of worship, pressed by officials wary about religion outside of their grip.

The Shouwang Church, with about 1,000 members, is one of the biggest Protestant congregations in Beijing that has expanded beyond the confines of churches registered and overseen by the ruling Communist Party's religious affairs authorities.

But the Party is wary about any potential unrest, and this gathering of neat middle-class and student Christians has been told by its landlord that it can no longer worship at the "Old Story Restaurant," with its walls lined with pictures of Chinese Party leaders shaking hands with former U.S. presidents.

Church leaders warned that unless the church can find a new home, its members may be forced to worship outdoors, a risky step in this nation where big gatherings often attract official scrutiny and can be broken up by police.

"This is the cross that the church has to bear," Pastor Jin Tianming told the worshippers about the prospect of worship outdoors. Some of them wiped tears from their faces.

"We need a formal approval from the authorities to allow us to find an indoor meeting place. If not, we will not waver in worshipping outdoors."

Members of the church told Reuters that they did not see themselves as political activists or foes of the government. But the pressures they face shows the extent of China's recent crackdown on dissent and potential sources of unrest.

"Some people may face getting caught, may have to stand trial or may even be sentenced," You Guanhui, an older pastor told the congregation about the possibility of gathering in a park or other public place.

"God, we especially want to plead to you as we face these dangerous trials. Please find a way out for us."

China has arrested and detained dozens of lawyers, bloggers and dissidents after the online calls for pro-democracy "Jasmine" gatherings.

On Sunday, prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, a combative critic of Party censorship, was stopped by police from boarding a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong, his assistant told Beijing lawyer Pu Zhiqiang. Police also searched Ai's studio in Beijing, according to Pu and messages on Ai's Twitter account.

Ai could not be contacted on his phone.

In recent years, restrictions on "house" churches across China eased, allowing them to grow and become more settled.

These churches started as Bible study groups that often grew into large congregations, sparking fears in China's ruling Party that they could undermine its grip. But those fears eased in many areas in recent years, and many such churches are now much bigger than could fit into a normal house.

There are 40 to 60 million Protestants in China, divided between the official and unregistered churches, according to Carsten Vala, a Maryland-based professor at Loyola University who specializes in Chinese Christians.

The eviction is the latest chapter in a long series of restrictions on the Shouwang church, which started out as a "house church" in a rented apartment in 1993. It holds three services every Sunday, partly because even the restaurant cannot hold all the members at the same time.

When pressed to register with the government Administration for Religious Affairs, the Shouwang church declined, said Cao Zhi, a Shouwang church member in his thirties who works for a non-government group.

"Traditionally, home churches haven't been willing to register, because the church is considered to belong to God," said Cao, a former journalist.

Since then, the church has been evicted from rented premises many times. In 2009, the last time it was kicked out of its place of worship, the church assembled in a park in a snowstorm. Promise Hsu, a church member, said about 700 to 800 people turned up.

In 2009, the church raised 27 million yuan ($4.12 million), in donations from members and tried to buy a space in a commercial building as a permanent home. But authorities pressured the seller not to hand over the property to the church, even though it had paid for it, church members said.

"As citizens and worshippers, we've fulfilled all our duties and just want to worship," said Cao, the church member.

"Churches need their own homes so they can develop. Why can companies buy their own places but not churches?" ($1 = 6.548 yuan)

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Chris Buckley; Editing by Andrew Marshall)

 

 

Catholic seminarians mount rare protest (SCMP)

Dozens of students at a Catholic seminary in Hebei province staged a rare protest yesterday outside a government office against the appointment of a non-Catholic government official to the school's leadership.

The show of defiance raised eyebrows, as the seminary is operated by the government-backed church. It added to the mounting tension before a key national congress in Beijing on Tuesday, when the mainland church will select its new leaders.

The Vatican opposes the congress, saying it breaches Catholic doctrine about bishops' autonomy. Sino-Vatican relations were already strained after Beijing's unilateral ordination of a bishop in Hebei last month. Brandishing slogans and wearing their white uniforms, about 100 seminarians studying for the priesthood at the Catholic Theological and Philosophical Seminary of Hebei in Shijiazhuang staged a silent protest outside the offices of the Hebei Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau from early yesterday morning.

They demanded that the government remove the seminary's newly appointed deputy rector.

"We have no option but to stage this silent protest," said one seminarian who took part. "We can stand the situation no longer."

Bureau officials said they were negotiating with the protesters but refused to give further details.

Tang Zhaojun, a section chief at the bureau who is not a Catholic, was appointed by the government on November 11 to the seminary's leadership. He will take part in managing the religious institute and teach political education classes.

The appointment sparked an uproar among the students, who have been on strike for two weeks with the support of their teachers, demanding that government officials not be appointed to head seminaries.

Church insiders said the government had promised earlier to remove Tang in light of the strong protests by members of the seminary.

But the possible resolution was thwarted after Beijing's ordination of Joseph Guo Jincai as bishop of the Chengde diocese last month.

Some of the eight bishops who took part in what the Vatican called an "illicit" ordination ceremony are directors of the seminary. The rector is Joseph Ma Yinglin, who was ordained without papal approval as bishop of Kunming , Yunnan , in 2006.

At two meetings with the seminarians yesterday, officials refused to remove Tang "because the appointment was a [Communist] Party decision", some of those present said.

Anthony Lam Sui-ki, a senior researcher with Hong Kong's Holy Spirit Study Centre, said the rising discontent among Catholics against the government as demonstrated in the protest could deter bishops who are loyal to Rome from attending next week's national congress.

Yesterday's open protest by Catholic seminarians against the authorities was the first since January 2000, when more than 150 seminarians at the National Seminary in Beijing refused to attend a ceremony in which five bishops were ordained by the government without papal approval.

Many of those who took part in that boycott were dismissed from the seminary.

By Ambrose Leung, additional reporting by Mandy Zuo

 

Bishops for pawns

The Economist, Nov 25th 2010, 13:57 by J.H. | VATICAN CITY

THE first to disappear was Joseph Li Liangui, the Bishop of Cangzhou. He was seen leaving his house with government officials on November 12th. Three days later, Bishop Peter Feng Xinmao of Hengshui stopped answering his mobile telephone.

Both men re-emerged on November 20th in the city of Chengde in north-eastern China at a ceremony that has prompted the most serious crisis to come between between the Vatican and China_s government in years. Messrs Li and Feng were among eight bishops who took part in what the Vatican regards as an illicit episcopal ordination: that of the Reverend Guo Jincai. A member of the Chinese parliament, the National People_s Congress, Mr Guo is a former vice secretary-general of China_s government-backed Catholic church, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA). China-watchers close to the Vatican believe he is being groomed for yet higher office in the state apparatus that oversees religious activity. Hence Beijing_s determination to have him elevated.

Chinese officials ignored repeated objections to his ordination conveyed by Rome through the informal channels whereby the Holy See maintains contact with the Chinese leadership (they have no diplomatic relations). According to the Holy See_s press office, all the bishops at the ceremony were coerced into attending_a claim denied by the CCPA_s vice-president, Liu Bainian. The ordination took place under tight security at at Chengde_s Pinquan church. Dozens of police surrounded the building and reporters were prevented from entering.

The Communist Party forced China_s Catholics to cut their links with the Vatican in 1951 and then created the CCPA six years later. The effect of its clampdown was to create an _underground_ faction of the church loyal to the pope. Estimates of the number of Catholics in China vary widely (most put the figure at between 12 and 15 million) though it is generally accepted that the underground part of the church is significantly bigger than the CCPA. In recent years there has been some overlap and reconciliation.

China had stopped ordaining Catholic bishops without Vatican approval in 2006, when both sides adopted a practice of agreeing informally on mutually acceptable candidates. In 2007 Pope Benedict wrote China_s Catholics a letter that was seen as conciliatory to the authorities. It described the naming of bishops by the Vatican as a guarantee of church unity, but said it was _understandable_ that the government would be attentive to the choice of church leaders whose functions had civil as well as spiritual implications. The weekend_s ceremony sent relations between the Vatican and China back to the dark days of before that truce was struck.

Relations had appeared to improve since then, although progress was sometimes halting. Last year, the Chinese authorities again arrested Julius Jia Zhiguo, a much-imprisoned bishop of the underground church who had been working for its reconciliation with the CCPA. Yet so far this year, ten bishops acceptable to both Beijing and the Vatican have been ordained.

The latest ceremony has shattered the perception of gradual improvement that those ordinations had brought about. And it has inspired some unusually harsh language from the Catholic side. _Once more, they have crucified Jesus,_ declared Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, a former archbishop of Hong Kong and a leading adviser to the pope on Chinese affairs. The methods used to force the bishops to take part in the ceremony, he said, were _fascist_.

A statement from the Vatican on November 24th was only slightly less strident. It called the treatment of the bishops a _grave violation of freedom of religion and conscience_ and said the implied claim of the authorities to guide the life of the Catholic church _offends the Holy Father, the Church in China and the universal Church_.

The road back from Chengde looks like being a long and arduous one.

 

China Launches Major Crackdown on House Churches, Labels Them a 'Cult'

Contact: Tracy Oliver, Media Coordinator, 267-210-8278, Tracy@ChinaAid.org; Mark Shan, Spokesperson, 617-943-1340, Mark@ChinaAid.org; both with ChinaAid, 888-889-7757, info@ChinaAid.org; www.ChinaAid.org, www.MonitorChina.org

BEIJING,_ Dec. 7, 2010 /Christian Newswire/ -- In a grave and troubling setback, Chinese authorities last week launched a crackdown directed at Christians who belong to China's vast network of unregistered house churches, calling a "cult" one of the fastest-growing populations of Christians in the world, according to top-secret information obtained by ChinaAid Association.

The all-powerful Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party launched "Operation Deterrence" on Dec. 1. According to the Politburo's top-secret instructions, the crackdown on the largest component of the mainland Chinese church is to continue through March 2011, and the party's Central Committee for Comprehensive Management of Social order, the foot soldiers of China's security apparatus, have been notified to collect information about house churches throughout the country and turn these reports in to their superiors. A long "blacklist" of church leaders and influential believers reportedly has been drawn up.

Perhaps unbeknownst to China's atheist Communist leaders, the start of the crackdown coincides with Advent, marked by Christians worldwide as the season leading up to the celebration of the greatest historical event of Christianity: the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God, to save mankind from sin and eternal damnation.

Operation Deterrence harks back to the previous era of hostilities and often brutal government persecution that had for decades driven unknown hundreds of thousands of believers "underground," worshipping in secret and fearing for their lives and freedom.

That could result in the more practical and immediate -- and chilling -- possibility_ that the same measures that have long been used against practitioners of Falungong, which the Beijing regime labeled a cult in late 1999, can now be employed against house church Christians. The Chinese government's brutal systematic campaign against Falungong since July 1999 has earned it worldwide censure.

Beijing authorities very effectively turned the tide of public opinion against the non-violent, meditating Falungong practitioners by using the same re-labeling tactic they are now adopting with the house church Christians. Originally regarded as an apolitical qigong exercise group, Falungong was reclassified by the government as "an evil cult," "a sect" and "superstition," and a subsequent all-out government media campaign eroded any public opposition to the government's crackdown on Falungong.

 

Le Vatican dŽplore l'arrestation d'un Žvque "clandestin" en Chine (le Monde)

LE MONDE | 14.04.09 | 14h54

P&EACUTE;KIN CORRESPONDANT

Depuis deux semaines, l'Žvque chinois Julius Jia Zhiguo a disparu. Dans l'aprs-midi du 30 mars, cinq policiers sont venus chercher ce prŽlat de la province du Hebei (qui encercle PŽkin), dans son Žglise du Christ-Roi situŽe dans le village de Wuqiu.

Mgr Jia, une personnalitŽ connue de l'Eglise catholique "clandestine" chinoise, est un habituŽ des ge™les du rŽgime : il a ŽtŽ arrtŽ plus d'une dizaine de fois depuis 2004. Sa dernire interpellation remonte au 24 aožt 2008, il avait ŽtŽ rel‰chŽ le 18 septembre. Ces trois semaines de dŽtention, passŽes dans diffŽrents h™tels et lieux touristiques du Hebei, Žtaient liŽes ˆ l'organisation des Jeux olympiques de PŽkin. Les autoritŽs avaient alors pris soin d'Žliminer tous les "gneurs" susceptibles de troubler l'ŽvŽnement.

Selon Eglises d'Asie, l'agence d'information des Missions Žtrangres de Paris, l'arrestation de Mgr Jia serait due au fait que l'Žvque "officiel" du diocse de Shijiazhuang, (capitale du Hebei), Mgr Paul Jiang Taoran, aurait choisi de se rapprocher du Vatican et demandŽ sa lŽgitimation au pape Beno”t XVI. Aprs que celle-ci lui eut ŽtŽ accordŽe, ce prŽlat a fini par se considŽrer Žvque auxiliaire de Mgr Jia. "Pour les autoritŽs chinoises, l'unitŽ de l'Eglise ainsi acquise n'est pas acceptable", Žcrit Eglises d'Asie.

L'Eglise catholique chinoise est en effet divisŽe entre deux entitŽs. L'une, "officielle", est regroupŽe au sein de l'Association patriotique des catholiques chinois et compterait 5,6 millions de membres. L'autre, "clandestine", pourrait compter une douzaine de millions de fidles.

En dŽpit d'un rapprochement entre PŽkin et le Vatican depuis quelques annŽes - le Saint-Sige Žtant soucieux d'oeuvrer ˆ l'unification de l'Eglise catholique chinoise -, la reprise des relations diplomatiques (rompues en 1951) reste un horizon lointain. Si le Vatican a fait savoir son intention de couper les liens avec Taiwan, son insistance ˆ garder la main sur la nomination des Žvques constitue, pour PŽkin, un obstacle ˆ la normalisation diplomatique.

DIALOGUE AU POINT MORT

Selon Joseph Kung, de la Fondation cardinal Kung, un groupe d'activistes basŽ aux Etats-Unis, la situation des catholiques clandestins "est en train d'empirer". En 2007, PŽkin avait nommŽ des Žvques qui avaient reu le soutien du Saint-Sige, une dŽcision qui avait ŽtŽ interprŽtŽe comme un signe d'ouverture de la part de la RŽpublique populaire. Mais depuis 2008, aucune nouvelle nomination n'a ŽtŽ faite et le dialogue semble au point mort.

Le Vatican a rŽagi vertement ˆ l'interpellation de Mgr Julius Jia Zhiguo : au lendemain de la rŽunion, ˆ Rome, de la Commission pour l'Žtude des questions d'importance majeures relatives ˆ la vie de l'Eglise en Chine, rŽunie du 30 mars au 1er avril, un communiquŽ a fait part "de la douleur profonde" ressentie aprs "l'arrestation" du prŽlat. L'incident constitue "un obstacle au climat de dialogue avec les autoritŽs concernŽes, prŽcise le texte. Il ne s'agit pas d'un cas isolŽ : d'autres ecclŽsiastiques sont privŽs de libertŽ (en Chine) ou sont soumis ˆ des pressions et ˆ d'injustes limitations de leurs activitŽs pastorales."

Bruno Philip

Article paru dans l'Ždition du 15.04.09

 

  

A champion of the underdog who was overtly political, Joseph Zen polarised Catholics

Ambrose Leung  Updated on Apr 16, 2009  When more than 170 priests gathered in the Catholic cathedral last Thursday to prepare for the Easter liturgy, much of their hushed talk revolved around a man who has made it his earthly mission to protect the weak and downtrodden.

They were speaking of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun - their outspoken bishop who retired yesterday after patrolling the borders of social justice since 1997.

"Some people didn't like him, but many more loved him," one elderly diocesan priest said. "Whatever people have felt about him, all should be laid to rest now because he is retiring. After all, he has tried his best to fulfil his mission entrusted by God."

Pope Benedict's approval last night of the 77-year-old cardinal's long-desired retirement certainly marked the end of an era. Cardinal Zen was disliked by some for his often swift and always fierce condemnation of what he considered unjust and wrong. Others admired him for his work as a protector of the weak and poor, and his castigation of those who abused their wealth and position.

Love or loathe him, few could deny he has held firm to his principles in a time of social and political upheaval since becoming second-in-command of the local Catholic church in 1997 - and, later, bishop of Hong Kong after succeeding the late Cardinal John Baptist Wu Cheng-chung in 2002.

With a low profile and extensive teaching experience on the mainland, the then Father Zen was considered a dark horse when he was designated by the late Pope John Paul II as Cardinal Wu's successor. Humble yet confident, Cardinal Zen reiterated during his farewell press conference last week that it was not his own idea to help mainland children born to Hongkongers who were seeking right of abode. Rather, he said, it was Cardinal Wu's decision in 1999 to open the doors that so often separate high-ranking clerics from people on the streets.

Cardinal Zen rolled up his sleeves and camped out with abode seekers during overnight protests; lambasted officials who claimed Hong Kong would be flooded by more than 1 million migrants; visited those jailed when their campaign turned violent; and resorted to civil disobedience by enrolling non-resident children in church schools.

By shifting the focus of the church away from its conservativism on public affairs, he made his name as a champion of the underdog - a conviction instilled in him by the church's social reforms undertaken during his studies in Rome in the 1960s. His dictum was that people should fight the culture of "collective selfishness" amid a trend of "toadying to the rich and powerful while despising the weak".

His outspokenness, which has made him as many enemies as friends, continued throughout the slump that overtook Hong Kong during the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003. Public grievances were intensifying as the government insisted on ramming through the controversial Article 23 national security bill in the Legislative Council. Cardinal Zen became one of the highest-profile opponents to the legislation, saying it would damage civil liberties. The proposed law was later shelved after half a million people took to the streets on July 1, 2003.

Undaunted by abuse from local leftists - among them pro-Beijing unionist Leung Fu-wah, who branded him a "pathological saint" - Cardinal Zen further agitated the government when he sided with the pan-democratic camp and gave his full backing to the campaign for universal suffrage.

Despite being a devout Catholic, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, along with his administration, denounced the cardinal by name on December 22, 2005, after the pan-democrats blocked what they and Cardinal Zen considered to be an undemocratic constitutional reform proposal for elections.

He earned respect and also drew criticism for his role in the pro-democracy campaign, as well as for his support for the vindication of those killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing. On several occasions, Cardinal Zen expressed sadness over criticism that the church was meddling in politics - a charge made frequently by Beijing.

"I have been misunderstood and have been used by others to some extent. There were many things that I failed to achieve," he said last week. "But God didn't ask us to be successful. God only required us to remain faithful and do our best."

One veteran church watcher in Hong Kong said that, despite inspiring people both inside and outside Catholicism, Cardinal Zen was a polarising figure, with his activism stirring unease in many people, even some Catholic priests.

"While some joined the church because of me, I have also heard some left the faith because they didn't like me," Cardinal Zen said. But he called himself "a conservative" in matters of faith - for example, his adherence to traditional family values, despite being more radical in public affairs.

To officials and some educators, the cardinal's persistent opposition to relinquishing the church's control of its 300-plus publicly subsidised schools under the government's education reform exercise was baffling; officials said the reform would create room for community participation in school governance. Pope Benedict fully backed the diocese's efforts to run church schools. A judicial review filed by the diocese has yet to be completed.

The Pope's support was only a small part of his identification with the Hong Kong prelate. As well as elevating him in March 2006 to the rank of cardinal - the second most senior position in the church - Pope Benedict bypassed the Vatican bureaucracy and made Cardinal Zen his closest adviser on church affairs on the mainland.

With his long-standing criticism of Beijing's control of mainland Catholics through the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, Cardinal Zen struck a raw nerve when he exposed in 2000 how state officials in Hong Kong had warned the diocese against celebrating the canonisation of 120 19th-century Chinese martyrs - whom Beijing considered to be imperialists.

Cardinal Zen's fierce criticism of Beijing's unilateral appointment of several mainland bishops without papal approval between 2000 and 2006 (coupled with his already tainted record in Beijing's eyes for his social and political activism), resulted in the central government abandoning efforts to mend relations following his groundbreaking visit to his native Shanghai in May 2004.

In recent years, he has focused on religious freedom on the mainland, and his unceasing campaign both in Rome and Hong Kong was instrumental in the creation of a long-absent mechanism in the Holy See to handle China affairs.

This formation of the papal commission on China affairs in 2007 caused a stir among bureaucrats in the Holy See. But determinedly ignoring hurdles in Vatican bureaucracy, Cardinal Zen, who had the support of Pope Benedict, helped lay the foundations and agenda for the Vatican's China policy for years to come.

In February last year, Bishop Zen called a secret conference, attended by Cardinal Ivan Diaz, head of the Vatican's worldwide missionary department, and dozens of international experts on mainland church affairs. Many recommendations were adopted by the papal commission's first plenary meeting in March last year.

And what of his own future? Cardinal Zen has said he will focus on his role as papal adviser after he hands over the daily diocesan administration today to Bishop John Tong Hon. "You are afraid that my retirement will be boring?" he asked. "The diocese office was like a jail. My only fear is that this new freedom will keep me too busy."

Memorable dates in a controversial career

December 1996

Ordained as coadjutor bishop

December 2001

Opens church schools to mainland children seeking right of abode

September 23, 2002

Succeeds Cardinal Wu as Bishop of Hong Kong

June 4, 2003

Calls for vindication of Tiananmen "martyrs"

July 1, 2003

Leads prayer session ahead of the 500,000-strong march against Article 23

March 24, 2006

Elevated to cardinal by Pope Benedict and is given an advisory role on China affairs

January 2007

Convinces the Pope to create a Vatican commission on China policy

April 15, 2009

Retirement approved by the Pope

 

Confrontational cardinal was not always right (SCMP)

Updated on Apr 16, 2009

 After delivering his last Easter liturgy as Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun said his successor, Coadjutor Bishop John Tong Hon, would continue in the direction the church had taken. The cardinal has championed many worthy causes and deserves credit for raising awareness of social issues. But he has also backed some questionable positions, notably on amending the domestic violence ordinance and opposing school management reform. Bishop Tong should, therefore, think carefully before adopting his predecessor's approach wholesale.

Cardinal Zen's outspokenness has contributed to the city's democratic development. He has stuck firmly to his principles. But he has also been a polarising figure. This has not helped smooth the Vatican's relations with Beijing. The cardinal is known to be a close adviser to Pope Benedict on the Vatican's China policy. Overtures to Beijing made by the Pope soon after his election were overshadowed by the cardinal's vocal criticism - on topics ranging from Beijing's human rights record to the Vatican's prerogative to appoint bishops on the mainland. This was a wasted opportunity. The confrontational stance has not helped Catholics on the mainland or furthered the interests of the Vatican. Bishop Tong should consider taking a more diplomatic approach.

The stance the cardinal has taken on some domestic issues also needs to be reconsidered. A law requiring publicly funded schools to include more parents, teachers and alumni in their management boards has widespread public support. Bishop Tong should abandon the cardinal's uncompromising opposition - including threats to launch a High Court appeal - and accept much-needed reforms to improve school governance.

The cardinal's hostility - along with other religious groups - towards a proposed amendment to domestic violence laws has made the issue a divisive one. The proposal aims to extend legal protection to people in same-sex relationships who may be caught up in violent situations at home, but it does not sanction same-sex marriage, a key concern of the church. It should be passed into law.

Cardinal Zen will not be an easy act to follow. Bishop Tong should build on his achievements, but not be afraid to make changes where necessary. With a little finesse, and a little less confrontation, he may win support not only from more Catholics, but from the wider Hong Kong community as well.

 

New Catholic leader vows to defend rights (SCMP)

Ambrose Leung

Updated on Apr 16, 2009

 The new leader of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese vowed last night to continue the church's role in defending human rights and caring for underprivileged groups.

But Bishop John Tong Hon, who succeeded Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun after Pope Benedict approved his retirement yesterday, said the way he would put his teachings into action might be different from that of his politically outspoken predecessor. "As a church, we will definitely continue our role in public affairs," Bishop Tong said. "God has created mankind who is endowed with freedom. Upholding freedom and caring for the underprivileged is part of our faith."

Bishop Tong praised Cardinal Zen for his "excellent leadership" when the diocese was under his care, and said he would miss the cardinal, who will now concentrate on advising the Pope on mainland church affairs.

Bishop Tong said he and his predecessor had "shared the same goal" in the social teachings of the church since 1997.

But he might not follow the strategies and expressions of his predecessor when the church participated in social affairs.

"Cardinal Zen was truly gifted," he said. "The church must make its voice heard. But how I will make my voice heard might be a little bit different. I will follow the church's collective wisdom."

The 69-year-old, who enjoys a weekly game of basketball at the Holy Spirit Seminary in Aberdeen - his residence for 17 years, said he was still considering whether to move into the Diocesan Centre in Caine Road, "because I like the tranquility here".

 

Bishop Tong to Lead Catholics in Hong Kong

(WSJ) APRIL 17, 2009 By SKY CANAVES

HONG KONG -- Bishop John Tong, the new head of the Roman Catholic Church in Hong Kong, said he is eager to serve as a liaison between the Vatican and mainland China.

"We will gladly act as a bridge if needed," said Bishop Tong, speaking at his first news conference in Hong Kong after Pope Benedict XVI formally appointed him to his new post Thursday. "Or if the Chinese government wants to use us to [communicate] to the Holy See, we will gladly participate."

Bishop Tong succeeds the outspoken Cardinal Joseph Zen, a longtime critic of China's record on human rights and democracy. The new appointment could help facilitate the restoration of formal ties between the Vatican and China, which were broken off soon after the Communists took power in 1949. The Vatican has sought to improve relations with China, where Catholicism has relatively few adherents compared with other Christian denominations, which are growing in popularity.

Bishop Tong said he hopes to promote greater "unity and communion among the different communities in the Church in China," a reference to the division among Catholics, who are split between those practicing in China's state-sanctioned church, loyal to the Communist Party, and the underground churches that take the Vatican as the highest authority. The Vatican has clashed with China over the appointment of bishops in the Beijing-sponsored church and the Vatican's continued diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Bishop Tong is widely regarded as more amenable to Beijing than his predecessor, who participated in demonstrations and held prayer meetings on human rights. Since 1980, Bishop Tong headed a diocesan office in Hong Kong that studies issues related to the Catholic Church in China. Last year, he was appointed co-adjutor bishop of Hong Kong, paving the way for Cardinal Zen's retirement. Bishop Tong attended the Olympic Games in Beijing last summer at the Chinese government's request, an invitation that wasn't extended to Cardinal Zen.

Bishop Tong said he won't participate in the public vigils to mark this year's 20th anniversary of the June 4, 1989, crackdown on the Tiananmen prodemocracy activists, noting that he hadn't attended such vigils in the past.

He added, however, that he supports the vindication of the Tiananmen victims, and described the current situation with regard to religious freedom and human rights in mainland China as "far from ideal."

"Religious freedom and human rights are all connected," he said. "If there is some gross injustice, I will speak out."  Write to Sky Canaves at sky.canaves@wsj.com

 

A Cardinal for China

(WSJ) OPINION ASIA

APRIL 16, 2009, 2:19 P.M. ET

Hong Kong's Cardinal retires, a loss for China's Catholics and freedom-loving people everywhere.

Beijing's bureaucrats rail loudly against religious figures when it suits their political needs, and one of their frequent targets in recent years has been Cardinal Joseph Zen, an outspoken advocate for democracy and freedom in China.

The Shanghai-born priest retired this week as bishop of Hong Kong. It's not just his successor who will carry on his work; it's also the millions of Christians and freedom-loving people everywhere for whom he is an inspiration.

Cardinal Zen, 77, has served China's Catholics for most of his life -- as a Salesian priest, as bishop and ultimately as cardinal. Born in Shanghai, he arrived in Hong Kong in 1949, fleeing the Communists. He returned to the mainland in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, when he traveled across the country teaching at Chinese seminaries.

After Hong Kong's return to China in 1997, Cardinal Zen became known as the "conscience" of Hong Kong. He worked to ensure that that Catholics in the territory maintained their freedoms and called for greater freedoms for worshippers of all faiths in China -- where the Communist state sanctions and controls religious activity. Catholics in China face persecution, and people of other faiths, such as Tibetan Buddhists, have suffered even stronger crackdowns.

Cardinal Zen understands that religious rights can never be fully separated from political rights. He has repeatedly criticized Beijing for its handling of the Tiananmen Square massacre and for delaying democracy in Hong Kong, which he described as a "a bloodless Tiananmen Square." When the Hong Kong government tried to pass an antisedition law that would have restricted free speech in 2003, he called for citizens to protest the measure.

His advocacy for democracy in Hong Kong earned him a backhanded accolade from a vice president of the state-run church in China, Liu Bainian: "If China's bishops were all like him then it would be dangerous like Poland."

Cardinal Zen has acted as unofficial liaison between China and the Vatican. The two severed ties in 1951, and attempts at reconciliation have stalled. Beijing insists that the Vatican has to break its diplomatic ties with Taiwan before negotiating with China. The Vatican demands affirmation of the Pope's right to appoint bishops in the Catholic Church in China.

In the meantime, the Church's presence in China continues to grow. Many Chinese are turning to religion -- be it Buddhism, Daoism or Christianity -- to help them find a moral compass in a rapidly changing environment. Roughly six million Catholics worship in officially sanctioned Chinese churches, and at least that many again worship in secret. Vatican-appointed bishops who are not also recognized by China's state church are often targeted for persecution. Nine bishops are currently in jail, according to the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation.

In retirement, Cardinal Zen will continue to advise the Vatican on Chinese issues. He told local the Hong Kong press this week that he will continue to speak out for democracy and religious freedom.

His successor as bishop of Hong Kong, John Tong, has not been as outspoken on issues of human rights. But in remarks to the press this week, Bishop Tong gave every indication that he will continue the Cardinal's mission. "God has created mankind who is endowed with freedom," he said. "Upholding freedom and caring for the underprivileged is part of our faith." Cardinal Zen couldn't have said it better.

 

Chine: inquiŽtudes pour l'avocat dissident Gao Zhisheng

(AFP)

Vendredi 13 mars, 11h53

Des connaissances de l'avocat chinois dissident Gao Zhisheng, dont la famille a fait dŽfection aux Etats-Unis, ont fait part vendredi de leurs inquiŽtudes sur sa situation. Lire la suite l'article

"Je suis trs inquiet", a dŽclarŽ ˆ l'AFP Teng Biao, un avocat spŽcialisŽ dans la dŽfense des droits civiques qui conna”t Gao.

"Pendant des annŽes, il a perdu sa libertŽ, il a ŽtŽ battu plusieurs fois et il peut souffrir encore plus", a-t-il dit.

Le 4 fŽvrier, des membres de la police secrte sont venus chercher Gao dans son village natal, dans la province du Shaanxi (nord) et depuis personne n'a de nouvelles, selon l'association Human Rights in China, basŽe ˆ New York.

Cette dernire et Radio Free Asia ont annoncŽ jeudi que l'Žpouse et les enfants de Gao Zhisheng, un garon de 5 ans et une fille de 15 ans, Žtaient arrivŽs aux Etats-Unis mercredi et allaient demander l'asile politique.

Li Fangping, un autre avocat cŽlbre pour son engagement en faveur des droits de l'Homme, a estimŽ que Gao pouvait se trouver ˆ PŽkin.

"Si sa famille est partie de Chine sans que les autoritŽs ne le sachent, ils peuvent exercer des reprŽsailles ou des pressions sur Gao Zhisheng", affirme-t-il.

Mais, ajoute-t-il, Gao, ‰gŽ d'une quarantaine d'annŽes, devrait tre soulagŽ de savoir sa famille dŽsormais en sŽcuritŽ, mme si cela sera difficile.

"Maintenant, il n'y a plus que lui, cela ne va pas tre facile car il n'a pas de proches ˆ qui parler -- cela peut-tre un gros problme pour lui", a ajoutŽ M. Li.

Gao, avocat et autrefois membre du Parti communiste, s'est fait conna”tre pour avoir pris la dŽfense des chrŽtiens clandestins, des cyberdissidents, mais aussi des adeptes du Falungong, mouvement spirituel qualifiŽ de secte par PŽkin et interdit en 1999.

En novembre 2005, il avait ŽtŽ radiŽ du barreau et placŽ sous surveillance policire aprs avoir appelŽ ˆ la fin des persŽcutions contre le Falungong. En dŽcembre 2006, il avait ŽtŽ condamnŽ ˆ trois ans de prison avec sursis pour subversion puis placŽ sous rŽsidence surveillŽe avec mise ˆ l'Žpreuve pendant cinq ans.

En 2007, il avait affirmŽ avoir ŽtŽ torturŽ aprs avoir envoyŽ une lettre au Congrs amŽricain.

16/03/2009 18:52

 

Le site du Vatican bient™t accessible en chinois (La Croix)

Le site Internet du Vatican sera accessible ˆ partir du jeudi 19 mars en chinois

Le site internet du Vatican, dŽjˆ traduit en sept langues (l'italien, l'anglais, franais, espagnol, l'allemand, le portugais et le latin), va dŽsormais avoir une version en chinoise.

"Gr‰ce ˆ ce nouveau service, les internautes du monde entier pourront accŽder aux textes (...) du pape Beno”t XVI traduits en caractres chinois traditionnels et simplifiŽs", commente le Vatican. Les catholiques chinois sont estimŽs entre 12 et 14 millions (voir notre dossier sur les catholiques en Chine).

La Chine et le Saint-Sige n'ont plus de relations diplomatiques depuis 1951. Le rŽtablissement de ces relations est un enjeu pour PŽkin, qui souhaite amŽliorer son image ˆ l'Žtranger, mais le Vatican, qui cherche aussi ˆ amŽliorer ses rapports avec les autoritŽs chinoises, y met comme condition la possibilitŽ de rŽunir sous l'autoritŽ du pape tous les catholiques actuellement divisŽs entre "officiels" et "clandestins".AFP

 

Sons of heaven (the Economist)

Oct 2nd 2008 | BEIJING AND SHANGHAI

From The Economist print edition

Inside China_s fastest-growing non-governmental organisation

ZHAO XIAO, a former Communist Party official and convert to Christianity, smiles over a cup of tea and says he thinks there are up to 130m Christians in China. This is far larger than previous estimates. The government says there are 21m (16m Protestants, 5m Catholics). Unofficial figures, such as one given by the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in Massachusetts, put the number at about 70m. But Mr Zhao is not alone in his reckoning. A study of China by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, an American think-tank, says indirect survey evidence suggests many unaffiliated Christians are not in the official figures. And according to China Aid Association (CAA), a Texas-based lobby group, the director of the government body which supervises all religions in China said privately that the figure was indeed as much as 130m in early 2008.

If so, it would mean China contains more Christians than Communists (party membership is 74m) and there may be more active Christians in China than in any other country. In 1949, when the Communists took power, less than 1% of the population had been baptised, most of them Catholics. Now the largest, fastest-growing number of Christians belong to Protestant _house churches_.

In a suburb of Shanghai, off Haining Road, neighbours peer warily across the hallway as visitors file into a living room, bringing the number to 25, the maximum gathering allowed by law without official permission. Inside, young urban professionals sit on sofas and folding chairs. A young woman in a Che Guevara T-shirt blesses the group and a man projects material downloaded from the internet from his laptop onto the wall. Heads turn towards the display and sing along: _Glory, Glory Glory; Holy, Holy, Holy; God is near to each one of us._ It is Sunday morning, and worship is beginning in one of thousands of house churches across China.

House churches are small congregations who meet privately_usually in apartments_to worship away from the gaze of the Communist Party. In the 1950s, the Catholic and main Protestant churches were turned into branches of the religious-affairs administration. House churches have an unclear status, neither banned nor fully approved of. As long as they avoid neighbourly confrontation and keep their congregations below a certain size (usually about 25), the Protestant ones are mostly tolerated, grudgingly. Catholic ones are kept under closer scrutiny, reflecting China_s tense relationship with the Vatican.

Private meetings in the houses of the faithful were features of the early Christian church, then seeking to escape Roman imperial persecution. Paradoxically, the need to keep congregations small helped spread the faith. That happens in China now. The party, worried about the spread of a rival ideology, faces a difficult choice: by keeping house churches small, it ensures that no one church is large enough to threaten the local party chief. But the price is that the number of churches is increasing.

The church in Shanghai is barely two years old but already has two offspring, one for workers in a multinational company, the other for migrant labourers. As well as spreading the Word, the proliferation of churches provides a measure of defence against intimidation. One pastor told the Far Eastern Economic Review last year that if the head of one house church was arrested, _the congregation would just split up and might break into five, six or even ten new house churches._

Abundant church-creation is a blessing and a curse for the house-church movement, too. The smiling Mr Zhao says finance is no problem. _We don_t have salaries to pay or churches to build._ But _management quality_ is hard to maintain. Churches can get hold of Bibles or download hymn books from the internet. They cannot so easily find experienced pastors. _In China_, says one, _the two-year-old Christian teaches the one-year-old._

Because most Protestant house churches are non-denominational (that is, not affiliated with Lutherans, Methodists and so on), they have no fixed liturgy or tradition. Their services are like Bible-study classes. This puts a heavy burden on the pastor. One of the Shanghai congregation who has visited a lot of house churches sighs with relief that _this pastor knows what he is talking about._

Still, the teething troubles of the church are minor compared with the vast rise in the number of Christians. After the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 many disenchanted democrats turned to Christianity: six of the 30 or so student leaders of the protests became Christians. China_s new house churches have the zeal of converts: many members bring their families and co-workers. One Confucian Chinese says with a rueful smile that most of the pretty girls at university were Christians?and would date only other Christians.

Holier and trendier than thou

Christianity also follows Chinese migration. Many Christians studied in America, converted there and brought their new faith home. Several of the congregation of the Shanghai house church studied abroad, as did Mr Zhao. In 2000, says one Beijing writer and convert, most believers were in the countryside. After 2000 they brought their faith into the cities, spreading Christianity among intellectuals.

All this amounts to something that Europeans, at least, may find surprising. In much of Christianity_s former heartland, religion is associated with tradition and ritual. In China, it is associated with modernity, business and science. _We are first-generation Christians and first-generation businessmen,_ says one house-church pastor. In a widely debated article in 2006, Mr Zhao wrote that _the market economy discourages idleness. [But] it cannot discourage people from lying or causing harm. A strong faith discourages dishonesty and injury._ Christianity and the market economy, in his view, go hand in hand.

So far, Christianity_s spread has been largely a private matter for individual believers. The big question is whether it can remain private. The extent of its growth and the number of its adherents would suggest not. But at the moment, both Christians and Communists seem willing to let a certain ambiguity linger a while longer.

_Christians are willing to stay within the system,_ says Mr Zhao. _Christianity is also the basis for good citizenship in China._ Most Christians say that theirs is not a political organisation and they are not seeking to challenge the party. But they also say clashes with public policy are inevitable: no Christian, one argues, should accept the one-child policy, for example.

Formally, the Communist Party forbids members to hold a religious belief, and the churches say they suffer official harassment. The president of the Beijing house-church alliance, Zhang Mingxuan, was thrown out of the capital before the Olympic games and told he was unwelcome when he returned. In early June, the state government of Henan arrested half a dozen house-church members on charges of illegally sending charitable donations to Sichuan earthquake victims. CAA claims harassment of house churches is rising.

In fact, the state_s attitude seems ambivalent. In December 2007, President Hu Jintao held a meeting with religious leaders and told them that _the knowledge of religious people must be harnessed to build a prosperous society._ The truth is that Christians and Communists are circling each other warily. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Christianity will have a political impact one day. _If you want to know what China will be like in the future,_ concludes Mr Zhao, _you have to consider the future of Christianity in China._

 

Mainland Chinese bishops absent at Vatican (IHT)

The Associated Press

Friday, October 3, 2008

VATICAN CITY: The Vatican said Friday that no bishops from mainland China will be attending a worldwide meeting of prelates in Rome next week _ a clear sign there has been no breakthrough in the Vatican's efforts to improve relations with Beijing.

Officials say 253 bishops will attend the meeting that will discuss the relevance of the Bible for contemporary Catholics. They include bishops from Macau and Hong Kong, but none from the mainland.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi says there were no requests from the bishops "because the conditions weren't there."

"It's quite obvious knowing the Chinese that if one can't reach an agreement, they (the bishops) can't come," he told reporters.

Pope Benedict XVI has made the improvement of relations with Beijing a priority of his papacy.

Ties between the Vatican and China's communist government are long strained. Beijing objects to the Vatican's tradition of having the pope name his own bishops, calling it interference in China.

China appoints bishops for the state-sanctioned Catholic church. In recent years, some of those bishops have received the Vatican's tacit approval.

Still, many of the country's estimated 12 million Catholics worship in congregations outside the state-approved church with bishops loyal to the pope.

In May, the China Philharmonic Orchestra performed for Benedict in a landmark concert at the Vatican. China's ambassador to Italy attended the concert, even though China's officially atheist Communist Party cut ties with the Vatican in 1951.

The Vatican meeting, known as a synod of bishops, will run from Monday through Oct. 26. Chinese bishops have not been allowed to travel to similar meetings in the past.

A document prepared for the meeting rejected a fundamentalist approach to the Bible and said a key challenge was to clarify for the faithful the relationship of scripture to science. A rabbi will address the conference on Monday, believed the first time a Jew has participated at such a meeting.

Benedict on Sunday will read a Biblical passage on Italian television to kick off a marathon televised Bible reading.

 

Losing my religion: the Jews of Kaifeng (SCMP)

Zhang Xingwang belongs to a small community of Jews living in a rundown mainland city - but no one is sure how they came to be there. Now, an academic is questioning their faith and claims they are victims - or even perpetrators - of a hoax

Didi Kirsten Tatlow

Updated on Oct 12, 2008

Zhang Xingwang, a former sports teacher with brown eyes and a bushy, salt-and-pepper beard, invites the children of Kaifeng's Jewish community to his home on Friday or Sunday afternoons. The flat Zhang shares with his wife is filled with symbols of Judaism: menorah (seven-branched candelabra) stand on tables; a Star of David flag pokes out of a flower pot; copies of the Torah, the holiest Jewish scriptures, line a shelf. Photographs of Zhang, 61, with visiting Israeli dignitaries and scholars hang from a wall.

Wrapping a voluminous tallit (prayer shawl) around his shoulders, Zhang sits at the head of his dining table and tells the children stories about their Jewish heritage and the Lost Tribes of Israel. "Just stories. That's all. I don't proselytise," he says.

Judaism has no official status on the mainland and domestic Jews are classified as Han Chinese or Muslim on their identity documents. Zhang knows proselytising is illegal and is careful to stay within the law. Yet despite the obstacles, the former member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference for Kaifeng, a city of nearly 5 million in Henan province, is determined to pass on his knowledge of Judaism. He also wants his ashes to be interred in Israel when he is dead. "I want to go back to the land of my ancestors."

The story of Kaifeng's Jewish community, which numbers between 300 and 900 (depending on who you talk to), is an object of fascination among Chinese and Jews alike. It has spawned dozens of newspaper stories and even research departments at universities, some helped by overseas donations. Established after the resumption of diplomatic ties between the mainland and Israel in 1992, the Nanjing University Institute of Jewish Studies changed its name in 2006 to the Glazer Institute of Jewish Studies, following donations by wealthy American real-estate developers Guilford and Diane Glazer.

The story goes like this: about a millennium ago, a small tribe of Jews left the Holy Land on an arduous 7,000km voyage to China, where they settled in the flourishing Northern Sung capital of Kaifeng. Here they made their homes in Pluck the Sinews Lane (a reference to the Jewish practice of removing sinews from meat before cooking), built a temple, traded, joined the Confucian scholar hierarchy, inter-married and assimilated.

Or did they?

In a bold new theory, Hong Kong University historian and Judaic scholar Zhou Xun says the established story of Kaifeng's Jewish community is a "hoax". Her research suggests the Jews of Kaifeng are at best deluded, or may be exploiting a status they don't deserve.

Underpinning her controversial idea with historical irony, Sichuan-born Zhou - who gained a master of arts degree in Judaic studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and wrote her thesis at the University of Oriental and African studies in London - says the Jews were really Muslims, and that the whole theory arose over a misunderstanding by 17th-century Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci - specifically, over a hat.

According to Ricci, Kaifeng scholar A Tian visited the Jesuit Mission in Beijing in 1605. There, A Tian told Ricci he belonged to a religion that believed in the one true God, yet was not a Muslim. That statement, plus other clues, led Ricci to decide that a blue hat worn by A Tian identified him as a Jew, since Muslims wore white hats.

Later, says Zhou, that encounter was taken up by 19th-century Protestant missionaries schooled in the popular story of the Lost Tribes of Israel, the 10 tribes cast out of their homeland by the Assyrians some 2,700 years ago.

The missionaries hoped China's Jews, cut off from the Middle East for centuries, might own an uncorrupted version of the Scriptures. They also hoped it would be easier to convert Jews to Christianity than Buddhists, who were proving hard to convince. First of all, they had to persuade the Chinese themselves they were Jewish.

Unfortunately for the Christians, says Zhou, a fact-finding mission to Kaifeng ordered by the Anglican bishop of Hong Kong in 1850 failed to find any evidence of a Torah. Undaunted, a second trip was planned.

"The 'miracle' happened on July 20, 1851," says Zhou. This time, Chiu Tiansheng and Chiang Jungchi, two emissaries of the London Missionary Society, brought back Torah scrolls and two Jews, although they were reluctant to confirm the scrolls had anything to do with the Kaifeng community.

"It is very likely that these scrolls were copied down locally in Kaifeng, under the instruction of the two delegates," says Zhou. "For the locals in Kaifeng, a place of overwhelming poverty, selling fakes to westerners had become a reasonably profitable business."

Other key evidence of Kaifeng Jewry includes two stone pillars, or steles, that reportedly date from the 15th and 17th centuries. Only one survives. There are photographs of them in an unofficial museum set up by Zhang. Engraved with accounts of religious stories, Jewish rituals and details of their Kaifeng temple, they are said to also contain reports of the Torah scrolls. The surviving stele is in the Kaifeng Museum, but its script is faded and unreadable. Calls to the museum are fruitless; it is closed for renovation. The second stele has not been seen since it disappeared from the gates of an Anglican church in the early part of last century, after the synagogue site was sold to Christians in 1912. Anyway, says Zhou, neither stele has ever been scientifically dated.

Despite that, the Jews of Kaifeng have grown in reputation and a small, but growing, trickle of emigration to Israel has begun. Although Zhang is content to wait for death before fulfilling his dream of going "home", others are not.

Yecholya Jin, 24, is one of four young women who left for Israel in 2006, helped by Shavei Israel, or Israel Returns, a Jerusalem-based organisation active around the world in its search for the lost tribes. Once there they were all "made aliya", or converted, since Israel's powerful Rabbinical courts did not automatically recognise them as Jews. China's is a patriarchal society and Jewish8ness can only be handed down the female line.

All converted successfully. Michael Freund, the founder of Shavei Israel, says Jin ran circles around the rabbis. When they challenged her chosen name, Yecholya, she pointed to where it appeared in a little-known book of the Scriptures, and to what it meant: "God can do anything."

Today, Jin lives in Jerusalem, where she is studying for her university entrance exams. She has no plans to return to the mainland, though she left her parents and younger sister behind in Kaifeng. "This is my home now," she says. "Since I was very small my father told me I was Jewish. Our family didn't eat pork, we had a mezuzah [parch8ment inscribed with Hebrew verse] on the door and our gravestones were different from other people's. My parents really supported me in returning 'home'.

"I like it here. Israel is an immigrant country and people come from everywhere and treat you well. You can learn a lot."

Like all the Kaifeng Jews, Jin had little to go on to confirm her ancestry beyond her father's statement that she was Jewish.

"All they had is that one sentence," says Freund. "It's fascinating how through the transmission of that sentence they were able to keep alive the spark of Jewish consciousness."

Kaifeng is an hour's drive east of Henan's capital, Zhengzhou. It's an unlovely place, despite having been capital of several Chinese dynasties. Its roads are lined with broken paving stones and most of its buildings are dirty.

Kaifeng-born Shi Lei, 30, says he just "knew" he was Jewish. He speaks fluent Hebrew, having studied for three years at Bar-Ilan University, in Israel. "My family always told me I was Jewish."

Shi is momentarily floored by Zhou's theory but rises to the debate. "That's K quite brilliant," he says. "Maybe A Tian was Muslim. But for me, I'm quite sure I am a Jewish descendent."

Zhou's theory has angered overseas Jews. US-based Beverly Friend, executive director of the China Judaic Studies Association, likened it to Holocaust denial. "If anything is a hoax, I think it is this article, and you can quote me on that," Friend fumes in an e-mail.

Yet on the ground in Kaifeng, the Jews exist in a limbo of hope and loss. In large part, this is because they have no synagogue to provide focus. Henan authorities have blown hot and cold on the issue, tempted by the opportunities for tourism yet scared off by the political sensitivities. For years, says Zhang, police harassed him, warning him off Jewish activities. The government recognises just five religions - Buddhist, Daoist, Muslim, Catholic and Protestant - and while the authorities tolerate religious activity by overseas Jews in Shanghai, Beijing and other major cities, experts says it is unlikely they will permit the building of a synagogue for native Chinese.

Professor Xu Xin, doyen of Chinese Jewish studies and head of the Nanjing institute, has long urged the authorities to allow a synagogue and help the community revive. "It [would] show a positive side of Chinese culture, that [Jews] were never persecuted here, it shows China is a multiethnic and multicultural society, in a way."

The political sensitivity of the topic is reflected by Zhang's skittishness as we tour old Kaifeng. He was born in 1947 in what is today known as Jiaojing hutong, or Teach the Scriptures Lane, a narrow, long path lined with rundown houses. His childhood home houses several families and looks like a slum. "When I was born, it was called Tiaojing hutong [Pluck the Sinews Lane]."

Some scholars say it is unlikely such a name would have been made up by Protestant mission8aries, who would have thought it derogatory.

Two lanes away from the former Jewish quarter is the modern Muslim quarter. These days, Zhang doesn't normally bring visitors to the Great Eastern Purity mosque. "[The police] are very worried about ethnic harmony," he says.

Inside the rambling, flower tree-filled compound, Zhang points at two lines of blue tiles on a green-tiled roof and whispers: "They stole them from our synagogue, you know."

Outside, among the crowding ranks of peddlers, he greets the Imam. Zhang, born and raised in these streets, knows everyone. Back then, he says, Jews and Muslims lived next door to each other and got on well.

Several kilometres away in Millennium City Park, a Northern Song theme park, Zhang has set up the Kaifeng Jewish Culture Museum in a two-storey courtyard-style house. The museum has thrived under the protection of the park owner, a rich businessman Zhang declines to name. All requests to the government to set up a museum on state-owned property have been rejected.

Shi Lei's father, Shi Xinguang, also runs a private museum about the mainland's Jews. In two small rooms in a modern brick courtyard of the old family home - about to be demolished - the exhibits consist mostly of photographs and include one from the mid-20th century taken to commemorate the Muslim festival of Eid. It shows rows of young men in front of a banner belonging to the "Central-South Muslim and Jewish Academy".

Shi Lei believes there are about 900 Jewish descend8ants in Kaifeng, though - curiously - he claims to have never heard of Zhang Xingwang. Shi's quest to revive his religious identity was prompted by contact with overseas Jews, and he was full of curiosity and buoyed by his growing sense of Jewishness when he arrived at university in Israel - only to be confronted by a shock.

"It was like being hit by a big hammer, or having cold water thrown on me," says Shi, who was 23 at the time. "Everyone said to me, 'You're not Jewish', because if your mother isn't a Jew then you're not a Jew. But in China, everything is passed down through the father's line."

Rabbi Seth Farber runs Itim, the Jewish Life Information Centre, which helps navigate rabbinical bureaucracy. Despite success stories such as that of Jin, Farber says it's hard for Kaifeng's Jews to immigrate. Although the 1971 Law of Return declared anyone who could prove his grandparents were Jewish had the right to Israeli citizenship, in practice the bar is set much higher by the official Rabbinate, which is suspicious of imposters.

Two types of people from China contact Itim for help proving Jewish ancestry; women who want to marry Israelis and Kaifeng Jews.

"Every once in a while we get a call or an e-mail, about four or five a year. We tell them we're all for helping them but in the absence of proof that you are a member of the world Jewish community it's hard to grant them that status."

Tudor Parfitt is professor of modern Jewish studies at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies. He has written extensively on the Lost Tribes and says colonists and mission8aries imagined Jewish communities everywhere.

"Anywhere where you get Protestant mission8aries in a quasi-colonial context you're going to have the construction of Jewish identity as part of the whole symbiosis between occupied and occupier," says Parfitt. "They would find all kinds of behaviour that they found weird and would then decide was Biblical, and so Jewish."

Whatever the truth about the Jews of Kaifeng, one thing is for sure: spurred by a steady flow of visitors from the US, they are learning how to be Jewish again.

"When I was at school my Jewish ancestry was not so important to me," says Shi. "But as I started to meet more and more Jewish visitors I began to learn more and realise it is in my blood. Basically you can say the Jewish descendants are on a learning curve. They are picking up what we have forgotten in previous generations."

 

Religion, la rŽvolution silencieuse

(Le Monde) LE MONDE | 19.08.08 | 14h17 _ Mis ˆ jour le 19.08.08 | 14h17 PEKIN, ENVOYE SPECIAL

Le crucifix noir se dŽcoupe sur le blanc du mur. La pice est d'une clartŽ vive, comme irradiŽe par la lumire qui perce les vitres de cet appartement perchŽ au sommet d'une tour HLM de PŽkin, non loin du village olympique.

Derrire son pupitre de fortune, le pasteur Li, livre des psaumes ˆ la main, chante ˆ gorge dŽployŽe. A ses c™tŽs, une adepte l'accompagne au piano. En face, une vingtaine de croyants entonnent ˆ leur tour les louanges ŽvangŽliques. Ils sont assis sur des chaises mŽtalliques au dossier rembourrŽ. La plupart sont des trentenaires et des quadras. VariŽs, les profils mlent femme au foyer, intellectuel ˆ lunettes, fille branchŽe en dŽbardeur ou garon coiffŽ en hŽrisson.

Yu Jie se tient en lŽger retrait de l'assistance. Il est plongŽ dans le recueillement. Teint p‰le et visage rond, il tient la Bible entrouverte dans ses paumes. Il la feuillette quand le pasteur prche "l'amour de Dieu". Sa discrŽtion est trompeuse : Yu Jie est en fait une personnalitŽ de poids de cette Žglise officieuse qui cŽlbre le culte ce dimanche aprs-midi de juillet. L'Žglise de l'Arche, nŽe d'un groupe de prires lancŽ par sa femme, doit beaucoup ˆ son abnŽgation, ˆ son prestige personnel aussi.

Yu Jie est ce qu'il est convenu d'appeler un "dissident". Essayiste libŽral, admirateur de la dŽmocratie amŽricaine - et ˆ ce titre, bte noire des nationalistes chinois les plus ultras - il est surveillŽ de trs prs par la SŽcuritŽ d'Etat, qui le laisse toutefois libre de ses mouvements. A l'issue d'une longue rŽflexion politique et spirituelle, il a embrassŽ la foi chrŽtienne en 2003. Figure de la mouvance pŽkinoise des "Žglises ˆ domicile" - structures officieuses tolŽrŽes mais Žvoluant dans un environnement prŽcaire -, il est aujourd'hui l'un des intellectuels protestants les plus en vue de la capitale. Avec deux de ses coreligionnaires, il a mme ŽtŽ re*u en 2006 ˆ Washington par George Bush, dŽclenchant la fureur du rŽgime chinois.

FOI ET POLITIQUE INTIMEMENT LIEES

Yu Jie n'est qu'un exemple parmi tant d'autres. Il incarne une petite rŽvolution silencieuse : un nombre croissant d'intellectuels libŽraux dans la Chine urbaine se sont ralliŽs ces dernires annŽes au protestantisme. Outre Yu Jie, les plus connus sont Wang Yi, Li Baiguang, Gao Zhisheng, Jiao Guobiao, Li Heping, Li Jinsong, Ai Xiaoming. La plupart sont des professeurs et des juristes impliquŽs dans la dŽfense des droits civiques. Ils sont la pointe ŽmergŽe d'un phŽnomne plus large : aprs les zones rurales dans les annŽes 1980, la ferveur religieuse - notamment chrŽtienne - est en train de gagner les grandes villes, en particulier au sein d'une classe moyenne en qute de valeurs spirituelles par rŽaction au matŽrialisme dominant. Les chiffres officiels sous-Žvaluent cette rŽsurgence de la foi. Selon les estimations plus crŽdibles de certains spŽcialistes, la Chine compterait aujourd'hui entre 40 et 50 millions de protestants pour 10 ˆ 12 millions de catholiques, soit des communautŽs chrŽtiennes reprŽsentant prs de 5 % de la population. Une part encore trs minoritaire mais en expansion. Dans le cas de Yu Jie, foi et politique sont intimement liŽes. AgŽ de 35 ans, il est trop jeune pour avoir pris part au printemps Žtudiant de 1989 sur la place Tiananmen. Mais l'Žcrasement sous les chars du rve dŽmocratique n'a cessŽ de le hanter. Au fil de la rŽflexion, la religion s'est imposŽe comme un substitut ˆ un idŽal politique inaccessible. Et dans cette recherche-lˆ, le christianisme est apparu comme la plus sŽduisante des tentations. "Les valeurs libŽrales trouvent leur source dans le christianisme, analyse-t-il. La tradition chinoise ne me satisfait pas de ce point de vue : on ne trouve pas de rŽfŽrences ˆ la libertŽ et aux droits de l'homme dans le confucianisme."

Yu Jie a beaucoup lu, s'est plongŽ dans l'histoire de l'ŽvangŽlisation en terre chinoise, a rŽflŽchi au lien entre christianisme et modernitŽ. Il a pu mesurer le r™le du protestantisme dans la formation des Žlites rŽformistes en Chine ˆ l'aube du XXe sicle, en particulier chez Sun Yat-sen, le fondateur de la RŽpublique. "Plus je lisais, plus je dŽcouvrais que la religion chrŽtienne avait contribuŽ ˆ la modernisation de la sociŽtŽ chinoise avant la rŽvolution de 1949, poursuit-il. Or, cet apport est totalement occultŽ par nos manuels d'histoire officiels, qui prŽsentent le christianisme comme l'instrument de l'impŽrialisme occidental."

"J'AI FINI PAR NOURRIR UNE HAINE DE LA SOCIETE"

Wang Guangze est un autre de ces intellectuels nŽoprotestants. Journaliste dissident, ancien du Quotidien de la loi et de Reportage Žconomique du XXIe sicle - dont il a ŽtŽ exclu pour ses opinions dŽmocrates -, il a le mme ‰ge que Yu Jie. Comme chez ce dernier, le traumatisme de Tiananmen a pesŽ lourd dans son Žvolution spirituelle. En mai 1989, soit avant la rŽpression du mouvement, il n'Žtait qu'un lycŽen de la province du Henan (centre), mais il s'Žtait mlŽ aux manifestations de soutien qui avaient alors enfiŽvrŽ la jeunesse ˆ travers le pays. L'intervention sanglante des chars sur Tiananmen l'a totalement "dŽsespŽrŽ".

"J'Žtais tellement dŽsabusŽ, se souvient-il, que j'ai fini par nourrir une haine de la sociŽtŽ, cette sociŽtŽ devenue l'esclave du pouvoir." Au sortir de ses Žtudes de droit, il cherche ˆ se guŽrir de cette rage. Les traditions chinoises, comme chez Yu Jie, ne lui sont gure d'un grand secours. "Le confucianisme est une pensŽe de l'Žlite, grince-t-il, et le bouddhisme ne vise qu'ˆ devenir un saint." Mais il continue ˆ chercher, ˆ lire, ˆ dŽbattre des voies du salut avec ses amis. Ce qui le rŽvle soudainement au christianisme, explique-t-il, c'est la "notion de pŽchŽ". Il tient lˆ - enfin ! - la clŽ qui lui permet de s'arracher ˆ l'exŽcration du monde. "Nous sommes tous des pŽcheurs, dit-il. Il n'existe pas de gens plus nobles que d'autres." "C'est ainsi que j'ai apaisŽ ma colre contre le Parti communiste, continue-il. Les communistes sont des pŽcheurs comme moi, mme s'ils servent un systme qui opprime." Wang Guangze devient donc "tolŽrant", "modŽrŽ", il estime qu'il "faut s'entraider entre pŽcheurs". Il a fondŽ une association pr™nant la "rŽconciliation" en Chine sur le modle sud-africain.

Fan Yafeng, lui aussi, a retrouvŽ la paix de l'‰me gr‰ce ˆ Dieu. Juriste ˆ l'AcadŽmie des sciences sociales, il avait 20 ans en 1989. Il Žtait montŽ de sa province de l'Anhui ˆ PŽkin vivre aux premires loges la fronde Žtudiante. "Aprs la rŽpression, je suis devenu totalement dŽprimŽ, tŽmoigne-t-il. Pendant des annŽes, je me suis senti faible, fragile, vide." Il s'essaie au bouddhisme mais celui-ci ne rŽpond pas ˆ ses "interrogations sur le sens de la vie". L'hiver 1996, c'est la rŽvŽlation. Un ami pasteur qui, lui, Žtait passŽ de l'hindouisme au protestantisme l'invite au culte d'une "Žglise ˆ domicile". "Lˆ, j'ai vu les gens respirer de bonheur, des gens trs simples, une coiffeuse, une employŽe d'assurance, se souvient-il. Leur visage Žtait illuminŽ." Quelques mois plus tard, Fan Yafeng est baptisŽ. Si 1989 a prŽcipitŽ ses tourments passŽs, il ne veut toutefois pas politiser ˆ l'excs sa dŽcouverte de la foi : "Nos Žglises permettent de sauver les ‰mes, pas la sociŽtŽ."

Tous les nŽoprotestants de PŽkin ne baignent pas dans pareille bŽatitude. Cheveux longs ˆ mches rousses, Wang Wangwang, est un artiste peintre, cŽlbre concepteur d'affiches prisŽ de l'avant-garde de la capitale. Il s'est converti en 2004 car, malgrŽ ses succs et son enrichissement, il Žprouvait "un vide spirituel". Quatre annŽes plus tard, il a pris du recul. "J'ai senti en moi, dit-il, une contradiction, un conflit entre valeurs occidentales liŽes au christianisme et les valeurs chinoises dont je suis porteur." Depuis, il s'efforce de les "harmoniser". Il est aujourd'hui parvenu, souligne-t-il, ˆ une "synthse satisfaisante". Mais au prix d'un dŽsengagement de l'"Žglise ˆ domicile" qu'il avait rejointe. Il prŽfre "pratiquer" seul, chez lui, dans le capharna&UGRAVE;m de ses tableaux o* le Christ s'affiche au coude ˆ coude avec Mao.

 

Un pasteur de l'Žglise clandestine arrtŽ prs du temple o George Bush a priŽ

FrŽdŽric Bobin, Article paru dans l'Ždition du 20.08.08 LE MONDE | 12.08.08 | 14h41 _ Mis ˆ jour le 12.08.08 | 14h41 (ˆ PŽkin)

La photo de George Bush entourŽ de jeunes chrŽtiens chinois sur le seuil d'un petit temple protestant pŽkinois a ŽtŽ diffusŽe depuis dimanche, mais un incident est restŽ hors champ : un pasteur de l'Žglise clandestine chinoise a ŽtŽ arrtŽ alors qu'il tentait de se rendre ˆ vŽlo ˆ la cŽrŽmonie.

FrŽdŽric Bobin, Article paru dans l'Ždition du 20.08.08Le temple de Kuanjie, o* le prŽsident amŽricain a assistŽ ˆ l'office en chinois, appartient ˆ l'Žglise protestante officielle, chapeautŽe par le Mouvement patriotique des trois autonomies, et donc par l'Etat-parti. Pour Žchapper ˆ cette tutelle, de plus en plus de protestants chinois pratiquent ˆ domicile, et dans la clandestinitŽ : ils seraient prs de 40 millions, quatre fois plus que les membres de l'Eglise officielle. Le pasteur Hua Huiqi est l'un des activistes le plus en vue de cette Žglise souterraine. Il s'est aussi impliquŽ dans la dŽfense de protestataires, ce qui lui a valu d'tre tabassŽ par la police en octobre 2007 et de passer six mois en prison. AssignŽ ˆ rŽsidence et surveillŽ de prs pendant les Jeux, Hua a pourtant tenu ˆ se rendre au temple de Kuanjie : "Je lui ai dit que la pŽriode Žtait sensible et qu'il valait mieux s'abstenir, a dŽclarŽ son frre Huilin ˆ l'Irish Times. Il m'a rŽpondu qu'il Žtait dŽterminŽ ˆ s'y rendre, parce que c'est dans ce temple qu'il a ŽtŽ baptisŽ. Il Žtait inflexible."

FrŽdŽric Bobin, Article paru dans l'Ždition du 20.08.08Dimanche matin, des gardes du bureau des affaires religieuses ont apprŽhendŽ le pasteur Hua et lui ont confisquŽ sa bible. GardŽ au secret, il a pu s'Žchapper, profitant de ce que son garde s'Žtait endormi. Sur les marches du temple, George Bush avait dŽclarŽ : "Aucun Etat, aucun homme, aucune femme, ne doit craindre l'influence d'une religion d'amour." Peu aprs, il a remerciŽ le prŽsident Hu Jintao d'avoir arrangŽ cette visite au temple. On ne sait pas s'il Žtait alors au courant de l'arrestation.

 

China's repression of civil society will haunt it

(FT) By Minxin Pei Published: August 4 2008 19:21 | Last updated: August 4 2008 19:21

International visitors to Beijing during the Olympics will be impressed by the "Bird's Nest" Olympic stadium, the millions of flowers adorning the streets of China's capital and the freshly repainted faades of its buildings. What they may not realise is that all this represents the power of the state. In the run-up to the games, the government has mobilised unimaginable resources to make its capital a shining symbol of its success. Missing in this picture is China's civil society: non-governmental organisations have been conspicuously absent in the preparations.

For a nation known for its top-down, state-centric political system, this anomaly might seem trivial. But for those who have been hoping that China's rapid economic modernisation will foster a vibrant civil society which will push for future democratisation, the weakness of Chinese NGOs must be a rude reminder that the political evolution historically associated with economic development is not taking place in China - or at least not as quickly as one might have hoped.

Of course, China's economic development and opening to the outside world have given its people unprecedented personal freedom. In the 1980s, Beijing's policy on civil society was also relatively liberal. NGOs faced fewer restrictions and flourished. However, following the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, the Chinese government imposed registration requirements that made it very difficult for genuine NGOs to register and operate legally. The party feared that independent civic organisations would have the potential to challenge its authority.

Consequently, the growth of Chinese civil society, as measured by the number or quality of its NGOs, has woefully lagged behind China's economic growth. China has more than 350,000 legally registered NGOs, but perhaps only about 10 per cent of them can be considered genuine NGOs in the western sense. Most of the rest are so-called "government-organised non-governmental organisations", or Gongos, an appellation that would make George Orwell proud. As a rule, Gongos are affiliated with a government bureaucracy, headed by retired officials and funded by the state. They have no genuine autonomy.

Even among genuine NGOs, one cannot find civic groups, such as independent labour unions, student unions and religious groups, which are capable of large-scale collective action. Most Chinese NGOs are small groups engaged in leisure activities, environmental protection and local charity work like health and education. A promising development may be the formation of local chambers of commerce in Zhejiang province, where the private sector accounts for more than 90 per cent of the economic output. But this is the exception that proves the rule.

The hardline policy toward civil society was vindicated several years ago when the so-called "colour revolutions" swept through the Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. In China, as well as Russia, western-supported NGOs were seen as having played an outsized role in the ousting of unpopular regimes. Restrictions on Chinese NGOs were subsequently further tightened.

The Communist party perhaps knows better than anybody else the potential of even the most innocuous civic groups. In the 1920s, the party operated like today's NGO to win the hearts and minds of the masses. It offered free literacy classes to workers, set up clinics for the downtrodden and formed independent labour unions and peasant associations to defend their rights. Today, as the ruling party, it can be forgiven for suspecting the revolutionary potential of modern NGOs.

Ironically, the government's restrictions on civil society have been so effective that it is beginning to pay the price of success. It has limited Beijing's ability to provide adequate social services, fight corruption and manage state-society conflict. The party needs to see that suppressing civil society also implies assuming unlimited political liability for itself. Without alternative civic organisations to provide relief, aggrieved Chinese citizens naturally hold the government responsible for its failings. A civil society is a stabilising buffer between the state and the masses.For now, the party will stick to its post-Tiananmen strategy: relying on growth to maintain legitimacy and prevent the emergence of an organised opposition at all cost. This has worked wonders for the party since 1989 and the Beijing Olympics will give the party no reason to alter its course.The writer is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

 

Avec la secte de "Mentu" aux confins du dŽsert de Gobi

(le Figaro) Franois Hauter, notre envoyŽ spŽcial ˆ Yulin (Shaanxi) 04/08/2008 | Mise ˆ jour : 19:48 |

Les congrŽgations religieuses qui fleurissent dans les campagnes reprŽsentent un rŽel danger de dŽstabilisation du pouvoir.

Aux confins du dŽsert de Gobi et du plateau de loess chinois, la nature n'a rien d'accueillant : les plantes rampent sur le sable, tant le vent souffle fort, et sous la lumire blanche d'un ciel Žcrasant, la petite ville de Yulin (300 000 habitants) a des airs de Far West. N'Žtaient des mines de charbon et des gisements de gaz, Yulin ne serait pas la ville champignon, rŽputŽe pour ses vingt restaurants servant des plats de chiens, qu'elle est aujourd'hui.

A quarante kilomtres de lˆ, c'est encore un autre monde : dans le village de Yuxing, la misre rgne. La campagne est ravinŽe, le ma_s pousse vaille que vaille sur les maigres lopins de terre. Des slogans sont peints en rouge sur les murs en terre : "Les filles sont aussi bien que les gar*ons"! ou "Moins d'enfants, c'est la fortune plus rapidement". Mais pour Hua, une paysanne de 40 ans qui en para”t vingt de plus et qui vit dans une ferme troglodyte, la seule rŽalitŽ de ce monde, c'est "Mentu", la troisime rŽincarnation du Christ. Elle s'adresse ˆ lui matin et soir, nous explique-t-elle, avec ferveur.

Car ce "Mentu", selon Hua, guŽrit toutes les maladies ds que l'on croit en lui. Il offre Žgalement de bonnes rŽcoltes, sans utiliser d'engrais, et protge le bŽtail. La femme et ses amies ne croient en rien d'autre qu'en ce prophte. Elles ignorent que le fondateur de leur secte, un paysan nommŽ Ji, originaire du village de Yaoxian, a ŽtŽ tuŽ en 1997 dans un accident de voiture ; que son successeur Wei Shiqiang est mort en 2001 d'un cancer ; et que la &CCEDIL;troisime rŽincarnation&EGRAVE; de "Mentu", Chen Chirong, est en prison... Ces sectes n'ont rien d'anodin en Chine. "Mentu" aurait 350 000 disciples dans 15 provinces, mais la seule rŽgion du Shanxi en compterait une trentaine d'autres. Parmi elles, celle du "Dieu Žclair" annonce des catastrophes pour la Chine, l'arrivŽe d'une femme messie, et Žvidemment l'inutilitŽ de toute mŽdecine. Comme ces sectes fondent leur recrutement sur le mŽcontentement des paysans ou des ch™meurs, elles annoncent que leurs membres se doivent de &CCEDIL;renverser le parti mafieux&EGRAVE;(le Parti communiste chinois, NDLR) ou d'abattre le &CCEDIL;gros mŽchant dragon rouge&EGRAVE;. Dans ces sectes, les affaires d'escroqueries et de viols sont monnaie courante. Les malades dŽcŽdant parce qu'ils refusent d'tre soignŽs se comptent en milliers chaque annŽe, ˆ Yulin et aux alentours.

500 millions de personnes ˆ dŽplacer Hua, sur son lit, prie sous l'affiche portant une croix rouge (le crucifix est rouge, en Chine), mais n'a aucune notion de ce qu'est le christianisme, le catholicisme ou le protestantisme. Elle re*oit, ˆ l'Žgal des autres adhŽrents de "Mentu", la visite impromptue d'autres paysans, payŽs pour recruter et colporter la fable de prŽtendus &CCEDIL;miracles&EGRAVE;.

PŽkin a crŽŽ le bureau 610 pour lutter contre les sectes, aprs l'avnement du Falungong en 1999. Mais depuis cette Žpoque o la rŽpression fut fŽroce, la stratŽgie de l'Žtat se veut plus fine et intelligente : le gouvernement investit massivement dans les campagnes. Une belle route goudronnŽe conduit depuis peu au village de Yulin jusqu'ˆ Yaoxian. Le bureau de la police a ŽtŽ renforcŽ, les paysans n'y paient plus l'imp™t sur le revenu comme partout ailleurs en Chine. Depuis peu, ils sont les bŽnŽficiaires d'une assurance-maladie. Le chef local de la police nous l'assure : ˆ Yaoxian, "les sectes c'est du passŽ".

C'est malheureusement faux, et les pasteurs des Žglises chrŽtiennes officielles de Yulin sont les premiers ˆ le dŽplorer : "La progression des sectes est foudroyante, assure l'un d'eux". Les cibles de ces groupes d'illuminŽs restent toujours les mmes populations : les paysans pauvres, malades et mŽcontents, les employŽs des petites villes de province, tout juste arrivŽs de leurs villages. Des femmes principalement.

Dans l'histoire chinoise, les sectes et les sociŽtŽs secrtes ont toujours jouŽ un r™le capital dans le processus de renversement des dynasties, excitant paysans et citadins contre un ordre Žtabli dŽfaillant. L'Žtat chinois affronte en la matire une pŽriode difficile. Aujourd'hui, la Chine a une population composŽe de 58 % de ruraux. Les paysans ne devront plus reprŽsenter que 20 % des habitants d'ici ˆ 2033. Soit 500 millions de personnes ˆ dŽplacer vers les villes. "Si vous ne sentez pas assez finement les besoins de ces migrants, vous ne sentez pas les crises et les rŽvolutions qui se prŽparent", nous explique un haut fonctionnaire du Conseil des affaires d'Etat (l'Žquivalent de notre gouvernement).

Les dizaines de milliers de camŽras dŽployŽes ˆ PŽkin pendant ces JO surveilleront en prioritŽ ces dizaines de milliers de Chinois anonymes, qui tous peuvent tre des sectaires illuminŽs ˆ la recherche d'une publicitŽ inespŽrŽe.

 

LibertŽ religieuse : "signaux" de PŽkin

(AFP) 04/08/2008

Le secrŽtaire d'Etat du Vatican, le cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a estimŽ que PŽkin, qui s'apprte ˆ accueillir les jeux Olympiques, avait envoyŽ des "signaux positifs" concernant la libertŽ religieuse, lors d'une interview ˆ la tŽlŽvision publique italienne. "Nous savons qu'il y aura ˆ PŽkin trois Žglises dans lesquelles il sera possible de prier et d'assister ˆ la messe et nous savons aussi que les Žvques de Macao et de Hong Kong sont invitŽs aux jeux Olympiques: ce sont des signaux positifs qu'il ne faut pas nŽgliger", a dŽclarŽ le cardinal Bertone. "Les jeux Olympiques seront aussi l'occasion pour le monde d'inciter le peuple chinois ˆ plus de sagesse et d'harmonie", a ajoutŽ Mgr Bertone, ˆ quatre jours de l'ouverture des jeux.

La Chine et le Saint-Sige n'ont plus de relations diplomatiques depuis 1951. Le rŽtablissement de ces relations est un enjeu pour PŽkin, qui souhaite amŽliorer son image ˆ l'Žtranger, mais le Vatican y met comme condition la possibilitŽ de rŽunir sous l'autoritŽ du pape tous les catholiques actuellement divisŽs entre "officiels" et "clandestins". Le pape Beno”t XVI avait soulignŽ en mai que les jeux Olympiques de PŽkin Žtaient "un ŽvŽnement de grande valeur pour l'humanitŽ entire".

 

En Chine, Bush ira ˆ l'Žglise et parlera de libertŽ de religion

(AFP) 1.07.08

Le prŽsident amŽricain George W. Bush assistera ˆ un service religieux pendant son sŽjour en Chine pour les Jeux olympiques et fera ensuite une dŽclaration sur la libertŽ de religion dans le pays, a indiquŽ un haut collaborateur de la Maison Blanche mercredi.

La Maison Blanche a par ailleurs sŽrieusement doutŽ que les aires dŽdiŽes par les autoritŽs chinoises aux manifestations lors des Jeux permettent vŽritablement de protester, et a rŽclamŽ qu'elles soient ouvertes non seulement aux Chinois, mais aussi aux Žtrangers. M. Bush se rendra dans une Žglise pour y suivre le culte le dimanche 10 aožt, a indiquŽ Dennis Wilder lors d'une confŽrence de presse.

"Il fera ensuite une dŽclaration dans laquelle il dira ses positions sur la libertŽ religieuse en Chine", a dit M. Wilder, directeur pour les affaires asiatiques au Conseil de sŽcuritŽ nationale, qui conseille le prŽsident. La libertŽ de culte, ˆ commencer par celle de la communautŽ chrŽtienne, en Chine, est une grande prŽoccupation de M. Bush. M. Wilder a rŽpŽtŽ que M. Bush se rendait ˆ PŽkin avec l'intention de ne pas politiser les Jeux, mais aussi de soulever la question des libertŽs en dehors du stade, lors de ses entretiens politiques avec les dirigeants chinois. "On peut dŽlivrer le message de libertŽ sans politiser l'ŽvŽnement lui-mme que sont les Jeux", a-t-il dit.

Selon lui, les Etats-Unis attendent de la Chine qu'elle profite de son exposition ˆ l'attention internationale pendant les Jeux pour montrer qu'elle ouvre sa sociŽtŽ.

"Je suis dŽ*u qu'ils aient sŽvi contre l'internet", a-t-il rapportŽ.

M. Bush voudrait voir libŽrer les prisonniers politiques dont le gouvernement amŽricain a soumis des listes aux autoritŽs chinoises, a-t-il ajoutŽ.

"Les Chinois ont annoncŽ qu'il y aurait des manifestants. Nous espŽrons vraiment beaucoup que ces aires de protestation seront ouvertes, non seulement aux citoyens chinois, mais aux Žtrangers", a encore dŽclarŽ M. Wilder.

Le prŽsident amŽricain a dit espŽrer aussi que ceux qui voudront manifester dans ces zones pourront effectivement le faire. "Que les Chinois soient vraiment en train de prendre cette direction reste ˆ dŽmontrer", a observŽ le collaborateur de M. Bush.

 

China forces underground pastor from Beijing

(Reuters) Sun Jul 20, 2008 12:04am EDT

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese police have removed a prominent Beijing-based pastor and his wife from the capital as it steps up efforts to control dissidents in the run-up to the Olympics, the South China Morning Post reported on Sunday.

Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, told the Hong Kong newspaper he and his ailing wife, Xie Fenglan, had been whisked off to neighboring Hebei province on Friday night after a week of harassment.

Police told the church figure, who has often met foreign officials visiting China, that they do not want him in Beijing during next month's Olympics to prevent him from meeting foreigners, the article quoted Zhang as saying. Beijing police, reached by Reuters by telephone, declined to comment.

China's ruling Communist Party is wary of religious and other groups that could challenge its grip, including unregistered Christian "house churches", and regularly detains pastors and priests.

China has about 40 million active Christians, with their numbers evenly divided between state-run and underground churches, according to expert estimates.

The newspaper quoted Zhang as saying around seven plainclothes officers on Friday raided a guesthouse they had been staying in and told them to leave.

Zhang and his wife had rejected repeated demands during the week by police from various districts to leave Beijing, it said, adding that the couple had to move from guesthouse to guesthouse six times during the week.

The newspaper said Zhang was placed under house arrest after meeting U.S. congressmen Frank Wolf and Christopher Smith last month, and was also detained for 31 hours last month while he and his interpreter were on their way to meet Bastiaan Belder, of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Hodgson)

 

Christian Groups Step Delicately in Sichuan

(WSJ) Relief Missions Cope With Beijing's Rules Against Proselytizing By GEOFFREY A. FOWLER May 30, 2008

CHENGDU, China -- After the May 12 earthquake that devastated China's Sichuan province, Jonathan Bright, a 30-year-old American teacher at a Christian school in South Korea, gathered disaster supplies and headed to the quake zone to help. He never made it.

Before his flight got under way from Beijing to Chengdu, Sichuan's capital, Mr. Bright dropped a card with references to scripture and details about a Christian radio station in the airplane's restroom, drawing the attention of the crew. Chinese police boarded the plane and questioned him about his intentions before releasing him to take another flight to the quake zone if he wished. Mr. Bright decided to return home. "They cared only because they thought I was trying to make new Christians," he says.

In the wake of the disaster, China has opened its doors to outside aid in the form of money, supplies and volunteers. One caveat on the more than 160 million yuan ($23 million) that the government says has come in from religious groups, from inside and outside China: no missionary work. Mr. Bright's experience reflects the tensions and suspicions kindled by Christian aid to Chinese who are suffering in the quake's aftermath. Communist Party leaders and evangelicals, long at odds over religious freedom, are now feeling out new terrain. Within the evangelical community itself, the unusual situation has raised questions about how closely to hew to Beijing's strictures.

Franklin Graham, president and chief executive of the aid organization Samaritan's Purse and son of evangelical pioneer Billy Graham, says he has no qualms about holding back on religious activity if it enables him to deliver aid to the quake victims.

"When people are dying, you demonstrate the love of God by just being there with them and responding," he says. "This isn't the time that you want to preach. There are opportunities for that later."

When the quake struck, Mr. Graham was in China on an official visit with government religious-affairs officials and Chinese-sanctioned churches. He immediately promised $300,000 for the officially registered churches and used his access to begin negotiating with authorities for a much larger airlift of supplies. Mr. Graham says his was the first U.S. nongovernmental organization to land supplies in Chengdu. Officials never explicitly told Mr. Graham that his organization couldn't engage in evangelism, he says, but he "knew the ground rules" going in. "We never asked to preach in Sichuan," he says. "We just said we are Christians."

China's State Administration for Religious Affairs says foreigners pursuing religious activities in China must abide by a set of rules, which include bans on religious brochures and proselytizing without permission, among other activities.

When Samaritan's Purse launched a 747 filled with supplies from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Chengdu on May 23, the group was joined at a news conference by a representative of the Chinese embassy. The supplies, which included more than $1 million in tents and water-filtration systems, were distributed through the Chinese government and military after training sessions in how to use the equipment by Samaritan's Purse staff.

Another large Christian charity organization working in Sichuan, Operation Blessing, says it never proselytizes anywhere in the world and has a longstanding relationship with the Chinese government.

Christian organizations that are distributing aid to quake victims through less official channels say they appreciate the efforts of the groups going the official route but that their work comes with fewer strings attached. Bob Fu, president of the U.S.-based China Aid Association, says his group sent volunteers into China on Monday with 20 family-size tents. They plan to personally deliver the tents to the needy through their contacts at nonsanctioned Chinese churches in the area.

"We give out the tents and say, 'Jesus loves you,'" says Mr. Fu. "We want to pray for them, comfort their hearts and give them counseling. What these victims need is holistic, not just physical needs of water and food." That can put his volunteers, and those from other unofficial Chinese churches, in danger. He says he has already heard reports of three Chinese Christian volunteers being detained by police for praying while delivering aid. The Sichuan religious-affairs bureau didn't respond to questions on the matter.

Carl Moeller, the Los Angeles-based president of religious-freedom group Open Doors, says he thinks religion should transcend any political concerns.

"When Jesus said go out to the world and preach the gospel, he didn't say just go to those places where you can get a visa," he says. "To do evangelism in its purest sense is not about politics."

Mr. Bright, the teacher who was taken off his flight to Chengdu, says that before he left China a friendly taxi driver in Beijing took him to a government agency collecting donations, where he dropped off his supplies. "It seemed to be a direct answer to prayer," he says.

--Juliet Ye contributed to this article.

Write to Geoffrey A. Fowler at geoffrey.fowler@wsj.com

 

In China, Ethnic Tension Expands

(WSJ) Muslim Group Draws Attention; More Angst in Tibet By GORDON FAIRCLOUGH April 8, 2008

SHANGHAI -- Chinese paramilitary police sealed off a market town in central China last month and detained dozens of ethnic Uighurs, said local residents and a government official.

The arrests, which occurred in late March in Henan province but weren't reported at the time, appear to be part of an expanding Chinese government effort to prevent dissatisfaction among Turkic Uighurs from exploding into the kind of unrest that has swept Tibetan areas of the country.

Witnesses said hundreds of armed police descended on the Henan town of Shifosi, where there is a significant population of Uighur jade traders. "About 50 Uighurs were arrested," said a local government official.

Unrest in Tibetan areas has continued. On Sunday, police attempted to prevent a group of Tibetans from joining a religious procession with Buddhist monks in Sichuan province, sparking a confrontation, according to a local Tibetan resident.

Tibetans threw stones at the police, who responded by firing nonlethal antiriot rounds at the crowd, injuring several, the resident said. Calls to the police station in the town where the incident occurred went unanswered on Monday.

Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gers) are predominantly Muslim and are the largest ethnic group in the northwest border region of Xinjiang, which covers about a sixth of China's territory and is rich in oil and other resources. Uighurs' grievances with the government are similar to those voiced by Tibetans. Many complain of restrictions on civil liberties and religious practices and say that they also face economic discrimination by China's majority Han Chinese. On March 23, before the police arrived in Shifosi, Uighurs in the southern Xinjiang city of Hotan raised banners and passed out leaflets calling on fellow Uighurs to join an independence movement. Those demonstrators were quickly arrested, the government says. Hotan is the source of some of China's most prized jade.

The Hotan government says the protests involved a "small number" of people, but Uighur exile groups say the actual number may have been in the hundreds.

Uighur activists say that once unrest started in Tibetan areas in early April, Chinese authorities began rounding up suspected Uighur dissidents in an effort to forestall similar protests in Xinjiang during the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in August.

Xinjiang "has so many natural resources, so the Chinese government has been extremely ruthless when it comes to cracking down on Uighurs," said Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Uyghur American Association in Washington.

Ms. Kadeer, a Uighur human-rights campaigner who was imprisoned in China for more than five years, said China is intent on creating a "very stable situation" to avoid disruptions to the Olympic torch relay, which is scheduled to pass through Xinjiang in late June.

"Every day, Uighurs are being detained or arrested. Uighurs are paying a tremendous price for the Olympic torch relay," Ms. Kadeer said.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, who was in Beijing for meetings Monday, said the committee "has expressed its serious concern" about the situation in Tibet and "calls for a rapid peaceful resolution" there.

Write to Gordon Fairclough at gordon.fairclough@wsj.com

 

China's Ethnic Tension Isn't Limited to Tibet

(WSJ) Tension in Xinjiang Remains High Between Local Turkic Uighurs and Han Settlers By GORDON FAIRCLOUGH April 5, 2008

This outpost of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps is home to nearly 20,000 ethnic Han Chinese, transplanted from China's eastern heartland to this arid border territory -- which is home to a large Turkic Muslim population.

Such settlements, combined with large infrastructure investments and, at times, heavy-handed measures to silence dissent, were supposed to cement government authority in Xinjiang. But a new protest by Turkic Uighurs and continued unrest in Tibetan areas illustrate the limitations of Beijing's approach to dealing with minorities.

Roughly 2.3 million Han Chinese, China's dominant ethnic group, now live in settlements set up by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, an outgrowth of the People's Liberation Army forces that occupied Xinjiang in 1949. The Corps has built highways, railroads, power plants and universities.

Coupled with this drive for economic advancement is a second function: security. The Corps says its plays "an irreplaceable, special role" in "cracking down" on separatists. Members can function as an armed militia to work side-by-side with the army and police forces.

"The battle against ethnic separatism and invasion has never stopped," Zhao Guangyong, the Corps' vice secretary general, said in an interview. The Corps plays a "very important role in promoting national unity."

The Corps' dual duties reflect the central government's general approach toward ethnic-minority groups: Try to win them over with economic growth, while stamping out opposition to Beijing. In Xinjiang, that has meant restricting both religious freedoms and civil rights.

"It's a very volatile situation," says Nicholas Bequelin, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group. "People feel their cultural identity is being threatened." As China this past week sought to contain unrest in Tibetan areas following violent riots in Lhasa on March 14, it acknowledged for the first time that a protest had also taken place in Xinjiang. On March 23 demonstrators in a market in the southern Xinjiang city of Hotan unfurled banners and handed out fliers urging their fellow Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gers) to join an independence movement, the government there says. Police moved quickly to silence what authorities described in a statement issued Tuesday as "a small group" of Uighurs trying to "trick the masses into an uprising."

Fu Chao, an official with the Hotan district administration, said the Uighur protesters had been inspired by events in Tibet and that they were calling for the creation of an independent Islamic state in Xinjiang. Security in Xinjiang has been stepped up. Uighur activists say that as soon as protests started in Tibet, China began detaining suspected Uighur dissidents in an effort to prevent unrest from spreading to Xinjiang, which shares a long border with Tibet. Tensions had already been building. Chinese officials say they arrested a Uighur woman last month who was part of a failed Muslim separatist plot to hijack a Chinese jetliner. In February, Chinese police also raided what they said was a meeting of Islamic terrorists and shot and killed two men and arrested 15 others near Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi.

China's state-controlled Xinhua News Agency reported Friday that fresh protests occured Thursday night in a Tibetan area of the southwestern province of Sichuan. Xinhua said one government official was injured in the unrest.

The International Campaign for Tibet on Friday released its own account of the incident, saying at least eight people were killed on Thursday in western Sichuan province after armed police fired on a crowd of several hundred monks and local residents. The protests took place outside the Tongkor monastery 60 kilometers from Ganzi town, the pro-Tibet organization said in a statement.

 

Chine: un nouvel Žvque pour le diocse de Canton, avec l'accord du Vatican

(in Le Monde) AFP 04.12.07 | 11h58

Le nouvel Žvque de Canton, dans le sud de la Chine, a ŽtŽ ordonnŽ mardi par l'Eglise catholique officielle chinoise, apparemment avec le soutien du Vatican, a-t-on appris de source officielle.

La cŽrŽmonie d'ordination de Joseph Gan Junqiu, 42 ans, s'est dŽroulŽe dans la cathŽdrale du SacrŽ-Coeur de Canton mardi matin, a indiquŽ ˆ l'AFP le porte-parole de l'Eglise catholique officielle, Liu Bainian.

Gan Junqiu remplace Lin Bingliang, dŽcŽdŽ en 2001, a prŽcisŽ M. Liu.

Sa dŽsignation intervient aprs celle, intervenue vendredi, de Francis Lu Shouwang, 41 ans, comme nouvel Žvque de Yichang, dans la province du Hubei (centre), ont indiquŽ les autoritŽs religieuses chinoises.

Selon l'agence spŽcialisŽe dans l'information religieuse Asianews, la nomination de Gan est intervenue en novembre 2006, puis approuvŽe par le pape, mais la cŽrŽmonie a ŽtŽ longtemps retardŽe, car le prtre avait fait publiquement allŽgeance au pape.

Tout comme celle de l'Žvque de Canton, celle de Francis Lu Shouwang a reu le feu vert du Vatican, a affirmŽ l'agence.

Le porte-parole de l'Eglise officielle chinoise a refusŽ de se prononcer ˆ ce sujet, indiquant seulement que de telles informations Žtaient un signe encourageant.

"Si ces informations sont vraies, c'est de bon augure pour les relations entre la Chine et le Vatican", a-t-il dit.

Il a Žgalement prŽcisŽ que durant la cŽrŽmonie, Mgr Gan s'Žtait engagŽ ˆ respecter "les lois de l'Etat, ˆ sauvegarder l'unitŽ sociale et la stabilitŽ sociale et ˆ contribuer ˆ l'Ždification d'une sociŽtŽ socialiste harmonieuse".

Tous les responsables de l'Eglise officielle sont tenus ˆ de tels engagements, a prŽcisŽ M. Liu.

Asianews souligne que le nouvel Žvque de Canton "a de bonnes relations avec le gouvernement, qui a participŽ ˆ la restauration de la cathŽdrale de Canton, dŽdiŽe au SacrŽ-coeur et rouverte au public en fŽvrier".

La Chine a rompu ses relations diplomatiques en 1951 avec le Vatican, qui venait de reconna”tre Taiwan. La rupture est devenue dŽfinitive en juillet 1957 avec la crŽation d'une Eglise officielle contr™lŽe par le rŽgime communiste.

Il y a, selon le Vatican, entre 8 et 12 millions de fidles catholiques qui sont restŽs fidles au Saint Sige et font partie de l'Eglise "clandestine".

 

China's Official Catholic Church To Ordain New Bishop (WSJ)

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

December 3, 2007 7:45 p.m.

GUANGZHOU (AP)--China's official Catholic church planned Tuesday to appoint a new bishop who has publicly declared his loyalty to the Vatican, religious officials said.

The Rev. Joseph Gan Junqiu's appointment will be held at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the booming southern city of Guangzhou, once known as Canton, said Lu Guocun, a vice chairman of the state-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Appointing bishops has been a major sore point between Beijing and the Vatican. China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the officially atheist Communist Party took power.

Chinese authorities have repeatedly refused to consult with the Holy See when choosing new bishops, saying the pope should not meddle in the country's internal affairs. But there has been growing consultation between the official church and Rome on appointments. Many bishops named by China have later sought - and received - the Vatican's blessings.

Lu told The Associated Press he did not know whether the Vatican supported Gan's ordination.

"Our Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association really doesn't concern itself with such things," Lu said.

In Rome, however, a Vatican official who requested anonymity due to the issue's sensitivity told the AP that Gan, 43, has the Holy See's approval because he has publicly declared his fidelity to Pope Benedict XVI. The pope requested the loyalty of Chinese bishops in his letter to the faithful earlier this year.

AsiaNews, a Vatican-affiliated missionary news agency, has also reported that Gan had publicly declared his loyalty and that the Vatican thus approved his appointment.

The Chinese Catholic Web site http://www.cncatholic.org said that Gan was a native of the southern province of Guangdong and had studied in Belgium, France and Hong Kong.

 

Olympics Bible ban 'blatant lie' (SCMP)

Bocog slams religious censorship reports

Peter Simpson in Beijing

Updated on Nov 08, 2007

Beijing Olympic organisers have accused European newspapers and religious global news agencies of "blatantly lying" after claims that Bibles are to be banned from the Games next year.

The Catholic News Agency published a report drawn from the popular Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport and the Spanish daily La Razon, which said Bibles and other personal religious items carried by athletes, coaches and managers were banned at Olympic venues.

The allegations were also circulated on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

"This is not true. There has been a misunderstanding," said Wang Hui , executive deputy director of Bocog. "Athletes and other individuals can bring with them their own Bibles. But no one can bring in multiple copies for public distribution."

Earlier, another official from the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games gave an angrier response to an inquiry by the South China Morning Post.

"These reports are nothing but blatant lies," the official said. "Bibles and religious scriptures of the major faiths brought by athletes into the Olympic village are allowed, as are places of worship within the Olympic Village. This is the same as in all other Olympiads."

La Razon said the Bible-ban "rule" was "one of a number of signs of censure and intolerance towards religious objects, particularly those used by Christians in China".

The reports appeared to contradict policies released at an Olympic world press briefing last month, during which Bocog revised its religious promotion policy paper for the purpose of clarity. It stated that individual Bibles and other religious items would be allowed, while promotional material, banners and mass copies of religious literature meant for distribution would be banned.

While the policy is clearly aimed at Falun Gong members threatening activism, groups advocating Tibetan independence and the like, the reports - which have been widely circulated among the world's 1.1 billion Catholics - have angered Bocog.

Such claims are likely to put further strain on the already tense ties between the Vatican and Beijing.

"Currently in China, five bishops and 15 priests are in prison for opposing the official church," the Catholic News Agency said in its version of the report.

An International Olympic Commission spokeswoman said Article 61 of the Olympic Charter prohibited religious, political and commercial propaganda but allowed faiths to be worshipped by individuals.

She blamed a misunderstanding, "maybe from the translation service", for the "incorrect reports".

"We have been in contact with the journalists who originally wrote these stories and clarified the policy. Athletes will be allowed personal religious items in Beijing."

Beijing does not have diplomatic ties with the Vatican and has clashed frequently with it over the right to appoint bishops on the mainland.

 

La mort suspecte d'un Žvque chinois clandestin suscite l'inquiŽtude du Vatican (le Monde)

Article publiŽ le 12 Octobre 2007 Par Henri Tincq Source : LE MONDE Taille de l'article : 388 mots

Extrait : DANS un commentaire critique de L'Osservatore romano datŽ du 9 octobre, le Vatican a exprimŽ son Žtonnement et son inquiŽtude aprs la mort et l'incinŽration, jugŽes suspectes, de Mgr Jean Han Dingxiang, Žvque clandestin du diocse de Yongnian (Hebei), dŽcŽdŽ le 9 septembre ˆ l'‰ge de 68 ans dans un h™pital de Shijiazhuang, capitale de la province. Le Vatican aura mis un mois ˆ rŽagir, sans doute pour des besoins de vŽrification de l'information venue de la Fondation dite du cardinal Kung , siŽgeant aux Etats-Unis. Selon cette source, Mgr Han s'est Žteint sans avoir reu les derniers sacrements.

 

Activists arrested and beaten in 'worst crackdown in five years'

(SCMP)

Didi Kirsten Tatlow in Beijing Oct 12, 2007

The weeks before a major political meeting on the mainland are traditionally tense, but activists say the run-up to the Communist Party's 17th National Congress, which opens on Monday, has been marked by the severest wave of repression in years.

Dozens of arrests, detentions, beatings and abductions have taken place since August, peaking during the week-long holiday following National Day on October 1, activists say.

Targets have included Christians, lawyers, petitioners, Olympics critics, writers and democracy activists.

"My husband Hu Jia says that this year's National Day, which we normally call guoqingjie [national celebration day], has been a guoshangjie [national mourning day]", said 24-year-old Zeng Jinyan, eight months' pregnant with the couple's first child. Mr Hu and Ms Zeng, well-known campaigners on a range of issues including Aids, the environment and free speech, are finalists for the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, to be announced at the end of the month.

Mr Hu has been under house arrest since May. On October 5, police permitted him to accompany his wife for a regular pre-natal checkup - along with 12 plainclothes policemen. Since October 7 he has been confined to home again.

"I don't know what will happen when she gives birth, if I am allowed to go to hospital, or what if I need to go out and fetch something for her when she's in hospital?" Mr Hu said.

Ms Zeng said: "The police always say, `if you take the opportunity of going out to do anything else or meet anyone else, don't be surprised if we turn nasty'."

Christian activist Hua Huiqi, who was beaten by police yesterday, had suffered weeks of harassment beforehand, his family said.

Their troubles began on October 1, when a dozen policemen surrounded their Beijing home, trapping Mr Hua, his wife Wei Jumei and their 11-year-old child inside. Last week police smashed windows in their home and turned away Mr Hua's brother, who tried to deliver badly needed food supplies.

"We're down to eating garlic," Ms Wei said on the telephone. Then the line went dead.

Nicholas Becquelin of Human Rights Watch said it was the most severe crackdown in years. "This crackdown came very gradually, very systematically. They are proceeding layer by layer," he said. "Earlier this year they tightened up the media, then universities were told what meetings and workshops they could not hold. Then they took out the petitioners and the thuggish tactics we are seeing now are the last wave."

Mr Hu said it was "the worst I've seen in five years".

"Things are always tight before, say, a National People's Congress meeting," he said. "But this time it's worse, because it's the party congress, and power in China resides with the Communist Party, and they are determined to hold on to complete power."

Nor are the authorities seemingly reined in by considerations of their image a year ahead of the Beijing Olympics. Mr Hu said they were rushing to get rid of people they considered trouble-makers before the world focused on China next year. "They are doing 80 per cent of the work now in order to only have to do 20 per cent next year."

Mainland authorities generally justify such sweeps in the name of maintaining social stability and harmony. Beijing police refused to comment.

Other high-profile victims include Christian and rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. Gao's family say he disappeared on September 22.

Also missing is Yao Lifa, a well-known election activist from Qianjiang in Hubei province, whose son, Yao Yao , says he has been unable to contact his father since Sunday. Olympics-related eviction protester Ye Guozhu, his brother, Ye Guoqiang and son Ye Mingjun, have been arrested or unofficially detained, family sources said.

Lawyer Li Heping, an advocate for people he says are victims of miscarriages of justice, says he was abducted and beaten for four hours on September 29. Mr Li believes the attack was linked to moves to build a case against the use of laojiao, or re-education through labour, a form of extra-judicial punishment.

Major targets of the laojiao system are petitioners, tens of thousands of whom travel to the capital every year to seek justice for abuses of power by local officials.

"Locking up petitioners in laojiao camps is illegal and against our constitution", said Mr Li, who says he began gathering evidence against the widespread practice in June. Currently, thousands of petitioners are on the run in Beijing, the hostels they normally stay in closed or knocked down. Petitioners are a major target of the pre-congress sweep, with the government fearing they may stage demonstrations.

Still others who have disappeared include Huang Yan, 36, reportedly kidnapped on September 22. Mr Hu says he received a panicked phone call from her during which she said she had been beaten in police custody for three days before being taken back to her native Jinzhou, in Hubei, on September 26. There she slipped out of custody while her captors played mahjong but was recaptured soon afterwards.

Similarly, Zheng Dajing, a Beijing resident and native of Yunxi county in Hubei who is active in the defence of petitioners, was reportedly abducted at the end of August and has not been heard of since.

Pastor Liu Fenggang, reached by telephone at his home in Beijing's Haidian district, said he, his wife and eight-year-old son were allowed out only after lengthy negotiations with police.

"I have to tell them where I'm going, who with, to do what, and promise I won't meet other people," said Mr Liu, who was released in February after a three-year jail term related to his Christian activism.

"Since I got out it's been like this all the time. They lock me up for National Day, when there are foreign dignitaries in town. The other day there was an Olympics cycle race and they locked me up for that. It's endless."

While Mr Liu's case is known to international rights activists, other, less well-known people have also disappeared, such as 50-something Beijinger and internet democracy activist Zhang Wenhe, last seen by his family on September 29. Mr Zhang's family believes he is being held in a psychiatric hospital. Other high-profile arrests include Hangzhou writer Lu Gengsong and land activist Yang Chunlin, who collected signatures for a petition calling for "Human rights, not Olympics". Mr Yang's sister said he had been tortured in jail in Heilongjiang province.

Outspoken internet commentator Zhang Zuhua was asked to leave Beijing during the congress, sources said.

 

Activist beaten as rival police clash in melee

(SCMP)

Campaigner knocked unconscious Didi Kirsten Tatlow in Beijing

Oct 12, 2007

Dozens of police from rival city districts in Beijing fought a pitched battle yesterday over Christian activist Hua Huiqi, who was knocked unconscious during the melee and admitted to hospital.

Four factions took part in the battle that saw Chongwen district police and security guards, whom witnesses said worked for New World China Land (SEHK: 0917) - a subsidiary of Hong Kong's New World Development - squaring off against police from Fengtai district and plain-clothes national security officers, who had been monitoring Mr Hua for weeks.

"You killed my brother!" Hua's sister, Hua Yaping , screamed at men in street clothes believed to be officers from Mr Hua's local police station who had beaten him.

Mr Hua lay immobile on a gurney in Tiantan Hospital for an hour, eyes shut, before being treated. His trousers were wet from urine and dirty from the beating, according to another sister, Hua Huilin .

A woman answering the telephone at the district police station declined to comment, adding the officers were all in a meeting. She also declined to take questions.

Attempts to contact New World in Hong Kong and its office in Beijing for comments were not successful because office staff said the managers responsible were not available.

The incident, a complex one involving police and private security forces representing both political and economic interests, illustrates what human rights activists say is a growing trend on the mainland - attacks by private security guards, often representing companies involved in property deals with local governments, are on the rise.

Mr Hua, under scrutiny by the authorities due to his long history of underground church activism, also has a history of opposing home evictions in the capital.

He has been detained repeatedly in recent years for leading a house church, as well as for his rights defence efforts on other issues.

Recently, Mr Hua began helping petitioners from the provinces who travel to Beijing seeking justice. He was released from jail in July after serving six months for "obstructing justice".

Under heavy police guard, Mr Hua moved out of his Chongwen district home on Monday and was taken to Fengtai district, in the southwest of the city.

But Fengtai police did not want him in their jurisdiction, and yesterday he returned to Chongwen with a dozen Fengtai policemen.

He was greeted by Chongwen policemen and the developer's security guards, according to witnesses.

Both those groups were equally intent on not letting him return to his home, which is slated for demolition.

Late yesterday Mr Hua was still in hospital. Family members said doctors were refusing to discuss his condition, and the family was being watched by police.

Christian group: Businesses closed in western China for 'religious infiltration' (IHT)

The Associated Press Wednesday, October 10, 2007 BEIJING: China has closed two businesses whose owners allegedly sought Christian converts in traditionally Muslim western China, and revoked the visa of an American citizen for illegal proselytizing, a rights monitoring group said Wednesday.

The companies' business licenses were pulled last month by authorities in the Xinjiang region after they were accused of distributing religious material, converting Muslims and conducting "infiltration activities," the U.S.-based China Aid Association said in a news release.

The group did not identity the American, citing ongoing legal issues within China. It wasn't immediately clear whether the individual had been deported.

The report follows word this summer that China had kicked out more than 100 suspected foreign missionaries, including many in Xinjiang, in a campaign to prevent proselytizing ahead of next year's Beijing Summer Olympics.

Christian mission groups from around the world say they plan to quietly defy the Chinese ban on foreign missionaries and send thousands of volunteer evangelists to Beijing next year.

Evangelicals worked the crowds at the Olympics in Athens, Sydney and Atlanta but the groups say the Beijing Games offer an opening like no other, in a communist country that conservative Christians have long reviled.

China bans open proselytizing and worship outside the Communist Party-controlled official church. However, foreign faithful who live in China are often able to evangelize privately while working as English teachers, humanitarian workers or in business.

Efforts to contact the companies cited by the association on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

At one, a branch of Xinjiang Pacific Agricultural Resources Development Company, Ltd., no one answered the phone. The other company, Xinjiang Jiaerhao Foodstuff Company Limited reportedly owned by a Muslim convert, had no listed number.

A woman who answered the phone at the regional government's religious affairs bureau said she had no information about the companies or the accused American.

 

L'ordination d'un nouvel Žvque ˆ PŽkin marque un dŽgel des relations avec le Vatican

(Le Monde)

LE MONDE | 22.09.07 | 15h38 Mis ˆ jour le 22.09.07 | 15h38

P&EACUTE;KIN CORRESPONDANT

L'ordination, vendredi 21 septembre, du nouvel Žvque de PŽkin, Mgr Joseph Li Shan, 42 ans, est sans doute le signe d'un rŽchauffement des relations entre la Chine et le Vatican. Membre de l'Association des catholiques patriotiques de Chine - l'Eglise "officielle" -, Joseph Li Shan avait ŽtŽ Žlu le 16 juillet par un collge de prtres, religieux et personnes priv_ess du diocse, pour succŽder ˆ Mgr Michael Fu Tieshan, dŽcŽdŽ en avril.

Cette Žlection n'est pas conforme au mode de dŽsignation des Žvques qui est le seul privilge du pape. Mais l'Osservatore Romano, organe officiel du Saint-Sige, a dŽclarŽ, vendredi, que Beno”t XVI avait " concŽdŽ la communion" ˆ ce nouvel Žvque de PŽkin, considŽrŽ comme un homme de foi et un vrai pasteur, ainsi qu'ˆ Mgr Xiao Zejiang, ordonnŽ Žvque coadjuteur de Guiyang le 8 septembre.

C'est un geste de "bonne volontŽ", dit-on ˆ Rome, vis-ˆ-vis du fonctionnement de la partie officielle de l'Eglise chinoise qui compterait, au total, 12 millions de fidles, clandestins et officiels. Cette double approbation par le pape d'un Žvque dans la capitale et ˆ Guiyang dŽmontre le souci de Rome de poursuivre un processus menant au rŽtablissement des relations diplomatiques interrompues depuis 1951.

En 2006, trois Žvques avaient ŽtŽ nommŽs autoritairement par le rŽgime, sans consultation de Rome. Le pape avait rŽagi ˆ cette " provocation". La lettre envoyŽe en juin 2007 ˆ tous les catholiques chinois par Beno”t XVI, dans laquelle il appelle de ses voeux la libre nomination des Žvques et la rŽunification des deux Eglises avait ŽtŽ accueillie avec rŽserves par les autoritŽs de PŽkin.

Le Vatican laisse rŽgulirement entendre qu'il est prt ˆ rompre ses relations diplomatiques avec Taiwan afin de reconna”tre la RŽpublique populaire. Mais l'un des points d'achoppement reste cette Žpineuse question de la nomination des Žvques, dont le Saint-Sige veut faire son domaine rŽservŽ. PŽkin ne peut se rŽsoudre ˆ cette issue et met en avant le concept de "non-interfŽrence" dans ses affaires intŽrieures. Le rŽgime veut continuer ˆ contr™ler le choix de ses cadres catholiques.

Une nouvelle gŽnŽration se lve d'Žvques "officiels" nommŽs par PŽkin, avec la fiction d'une Žlection par la base, mais ayant reu a posteriori l'approbation du pape. Les Žlus cherchent mme ˆ recueillir la bŽnŽdiction du pape avant leur ordination, mais ils le font discrtement de peur de provoquer l'Eglise officielle. Le pouvoir sait que le rŽtablissement de liens diplomatiques avec le Vatican contribuerait ˆ rehausser le prestige de la Chine ˆ l'Žtranger, mais les responsables de l'Association patriotique redoutent qu'une telle perspective ne les dŽpouille de leurs prŽrogatives.

Bruno Philip

Article paru dans l'Ždition du 23.09.07

 

Beijing's Catholics tread carefully in installing a bishop (FT)

By Mure Dickie and Tom Mitchell

Published: September 21 2007 03:00 | Last updated: September 21 2007 03:00

Acolytes at Beijing's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception have been practising hard for today's planned ordination of a new bishop,even if the man about to lead China's highest-profile diocese has remained out of the public eye. "Father Li is on a retreat. We don't know where he is," one member of the cathedral staff offered during a visit this week.

Li Shan's retreat has not taken him out of the spotlight, however. His planned enthronement puts him at the heart of one of the most sensitive issues in ties between communist Beijing and the Vatican: a battle for the loyalties of a new generation of Chinese bishops.

If all goes to plan and he reappears for his ordination today, Father Li will be the seventh bishop installed since April last year, when the elevation of a cleric approved by the Chinese government - and not Pope Benedict XVI - ruptured a fragile truce. He will also be the latest 40-something bishop to replace octogenarians and nonagenarians who have been dying at the rate of about one a month.

China and Rome have for two years been discussing the possible restoration of diplomatic relationssevered in 1951 and Chinese Catholics make clear they want to see an end to hostilities.

"We all hope the government and the Vatican can resolve their differences," said one Beijing parishioner who asked to be identified only as "Maria". "As Catholics we will of course obey the Pope, but as Chinese we also have to listen to the Chinese government."

The appointment of a bishop of Kunming, in south-western Yunnan province, was the first of three installations last year without Pope Benedict's approval. Three other recent appointees have enjoyed both Beijing's and Rome's blessing, illustrating the complex relationship between China's state-sanctioned church, overseen by the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, and an "underground" church loyal to Rome.

The Vatican has remained silent on Fr Li's status. Liu Bainian, CCPA vice-chairman, told the Financial Times he did not know whether Rome's ap-proval had been secured "because there is no official communication channel be-tween China and the Vatican".

However, one person fam-iliar with the situation says Fr Li is in possession of a papal bull, drafted in Latin, confirming the Pope's approval. "He has been approved and he has been informed," the person said. "It is a good augur for the future. The Holy See didn't want another Bishop Fu."

Fu Tieshan, the capital's last Catholic bishop, died in April. Never approved by the Vatican, Bishop Fu held a senior government position - vice-chairman of the Nat-ional People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament - and was buried with full state honours.

The former bishop of Beijing was 76 when he died - young compared with some. One bishop, Meng Ziwen, died in January at the age of 104.

The huge generation gap between China's elderly bishops and their 40-something successors arises from decades of church persecution under Mao. But it has also ensured that Fr Li, who is 42, and his peers will lead the church in China for decades to come. About eight new appointments, all expected to be acceptable to the Vatican and in their 40s, are expected in the next six months.

While the schism between China's official and underground church often appears stark, the relationship is in fact more complex.

"It's no good talking about two churches - they are so intertwined," says Audrey Donnithorne, a retired scho-lar and expert on China's underground church, who estimates that more than80 per cent of bishops in the country are recognised by both the CCPA and Rome.

For bishops who refuse to have anything to do with the CCPA, however, the consequences remain severe. The US-based Cardinal Kung Foundation says: "Every one of the approximately 45 bishops of the underground Roman Catholic Church is either in jail, under house arrest, under strict surveillance or in hiding."

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

 

Freedom to worship a fundamental right, says Beijing

(SCMP)

Reuters

Sep 21, 2007

Beijing yesterday denounced as groundless a US report that accused it of curbing religious freedoms, calling it interference in its internal affairs.

In an annual report, the US State Department last week accused Beijing of persecuting Tibetan Buddhists, Uygur Muslims and Christians outside state-sanctioned churches.

"During the period covered by this report, officials continued to scrutinise and, in some cases, harass unregistered religious and spiritual groups," the State Department said.

Beijing expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with and "firm opposition" to the report, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said yesterday.

"Respecting and protecting citizens' right to worship freely is a long-standing, fundamental policy of the Chinese government. It is a fact that cannot be denied," Ms Jiang said.

"We demand the US side stop interfering in China's internal affairs and do more things that help boost mutual understanding and trust."

While the US report listed cases of abuse, it also noted some "improvements" in Beijing's respect for religious freedom as the government emphasised the role of religion in promoting a "harmonious society".

 

Vatican approval for new bishop (SCMP)

Ambrose Leung

Sep 20, 2007

The Vatican has given its approval for the ordination of Father Joseph Li Shan as bishop of Beijing, after a last-minute effort to ensure the mainland's selected priest gained recognition by the Holy See.

The approval came as Catholics in the capital prepared for a Mass tomorrow at which Father Li will become the first mutually recognised bishop in Beijing in almost 50 years.

Last night, church sources confirmed that the Vatican had given its approval, although officials from the Holy See have made no announcement of the decision.

It has brought relief to church members, who had been concerned that the ordination could be considered "illicit" by the Vatican - as were three cases last year - if papal approval could not be granted in time.

Father Li, who is known as a down-to-earth priest with strong pastoral experience in the diocese, was named bishop-elect by Beijing in July. However, the Vatican had difficulty contacting him, which was a condition for the approval process to proceed.

Last night, Anthony Liu Bainian , a vice-chairman of the state-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which controls the mainland's church, said he had heard about the Vatican's decision. But he stressed that there had been no official contact between Beijing and the Holy See due to a lack of diplomatic relations. He added that the Holy See's recognition of Father Li's status was a gesture of goodwill.

"I am sure this will be beneficial to improving Sino-Vatican relations," Mr Liu added.

The Union of Catholic Asian News agency reported that several mainland bishops were invited to participate in the ordination Mass, with Bishop Fang Xingyao of Linyi as principal celebrant.

The episcopal see of Beijing is considered important and politically sensitive. The position was left vacant after the death of Michael Fu Tieshan earlier this year, a cleric who was unilaterally ordained by Beijing in 1979 without Vatican approval.

 

Vatican to pursue Beijing ties

(FT)

By Guy Dinmore in Rome

Published: September 12 2007 03:00 | Last updated: September 12 2007 03:00

The death in Chinese custody, and hurried secular funeral, of a Roman Catholic bishop who was operating "underground" in the country have cast a shadow over efforts by Pope Benedict XVI to normalise relations between the Vatican and China.

However, observers said that in spite of the crude treatment of Bishop Han Dingxiang at the hands of the Chinese authorities, the trend towards closer ties between the Vatican and China - one of the pope's diplomatic priorities - appears set to continue.

Bishop Han Dingxiang of Yongnian in Hebei province, who spent a total of 35 years in prison, died on Sunday, aged 71, a Vatican source confirmed. He had been ill with lung cancer and had spent the last eight years in custody.

However, in a further sign of rapprochement between China's officially recognised Catholic church and the Vatican, a new bishop was ordained on Saturday in Guiyang in southern China by the state organisation with the approval of the Vatican.

AsiaNews, which is affiliated to the Vatican, reported that bishops and priests from the underground church, knowing of the Vatican's approval, decided to participate with the official church in the ordination of Paolo Xiao Zejiang. This was possibly the first joint celebration and marked an important step in reconciliation as requested by the pope in his landmark letter of June 30 to the Chinese people, AsiaNews said. The letter urged the underground faithful and followers of the state-run church to overcome decades of animosity and distrust.

The Vatican's insistence on its right to appoint bishops is one of the most significant obstacles preventing restoration of the relations severed by the Chinese Communist party in 1951.

The US-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, which has close ties to China's "underground" Roman Catholic movement, said Chinese authorities hurriedly summoned a few close relatives to Bishop Han's bedside in the hours before his death.

He was cremated and his ashes buried within six hours of his death in a public cemetery with no priests present. The Foundation says four underground bishops remain in prison.

Liu Bainian, the conservative head of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association which risks losing authority and wealth through reconciliation, last week accused the Vatican of wanting to impose anti-communist bishops. He said China should accelerate the appointment of new bishops to meet a serious shortage in the country.

 

China Says Vatican Trying To Appoint Anti-Communist Bishops (WSJ)

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

September 5, 2007 11:32 p.m.

BEIJING (AP)--The Vatican is pushing to get anti-communist bishops appointed on the mainland, a senior official in China's state-sanctioned Catholic Church said in comments published Thursday.

Pope Benedict XVI has been reaching out to Beijing, eager to bring China's estimated 12 million Catholics under Rome's wing. But the two sides have been at loggerheads over the Vatican's insistence on naming bishops.

"While Chinese Catholics want to select those (bishops) with good religious knowledge and love toward the country and the people, the Vatican wants those who oppose the Communist Party (of China)," Liu Bainian was quoted as saying by the China Daily newspaper.

No specific examples of Vatican bishop choices were mentioned. The two sides have no formal ties but are believed to quietly confer on some bishop choices.

Liu told the paper the dispute over the bishop selection process remained the key obstacle to improving Sino-Vatican relations.

China wants to speed up the bishop selection and ordination process because many of the country's current bishops are elderly and 40 of the country's 97 official Catholic diocese have no bishop, Liu said.

"We are in dire need of bishops," Liu was quoted as saying.

China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the officially atheist Communist Party took power. Worship is allowed only in government-controlled churches, which recognize the Pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops.

Millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations that are not registered with the authorities.

China has said before it also wants the Vatican to cut ties with Taiwan, a self-governed island that Beijing considers part of its territory.

 

Bishop Of Underground Chinese Catholic Church Detained (WSJ)DOW JONES NEWSWIRESAugust 23, 2007 4:02 a.m.

BEIJING (AP)--An elderly bishop in China's underground Catholic church has been detained by police for the second time this year, a U.S.-based monitoring group said Thursday.

Bishop Jia Zhiguo, 73, was taken away Thursday by security agents in Zhengding, a city in northern Hebei province, the Cardinal Kung Foundation said in a statement.

It wasn't immediately clear why he was detained, the group said.

A woman from Zhengding Public Security Bureau, who refused to give her name, said she wasn't aware of the case. The phone of Zhengding Religious Affairs Bureau rang unanswered.

China broke ties with the Vatican in 1951 and demands that Catholics worship only in government-controlled churches, which recognize the pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops.

Millions remain loyal to the pope and worship in secret, but priests and members of their congregations are frequently detained and harassed.

In June, Pope Benedict XVI made his most significant attempt to unite China's Catholics, issuing a letter urging the underground faithful and followers of the state-run church to overcome decades of animosity and distrust.

The foundation said that since the release of the letter, Jia was told several times by the religious affairs bureau that he wasn't allowed to publicly support and promulgate the letter.

It said more police had been watching Jia in the last five days and that anyone visiting him was questioned.

The statement said the action "by the Chinese government is not only contrary to the spirit of the China letter issued by the Pope almost two months ago, but also contrary to the generally accepted principles of human rights and to the spirits of the Olympic games."

Jia, who was ordained in 1980, has been detained at least 11 times since January 2004, according to the Kung Foundation. The most recent time was in June, but it isn't known for how long he was detained.

Jia's Zhengding diocese, 240 kilometers southwest of Beijing in Hebei, is a traditional stronghold of Catholic sentiment in northern China.

The rights group said a priest, Father Wen Daoxiu, of Qingyuan County in Hebei, was also detained on Aug. 15 for unknown reasons.

It said Wen, in his mid-50s, was in poor health.

A man named Li who answered the phone at the Qingyuan Public Security Bureau and another official surnamed Zhao from the Qingyuan Religious Bureau said they weren't aware of Wen's case. Both refused to give their full names.

The Cardinal Kung Foundation is named for the late Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pinmei of Shanghai, who spent 30 years in Chinese prisons and died in the U.S. in 2000 at age 98.

 

Report: Bishop Of Underground Chinese Catholic Church Detained (WSJ)

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

August 23, 2007 4:02 a.m.

BEIJING (AP)--An elderly bishop in China's underground Catholic church has been detained by police for the second time this year, a U.S.-based monitoring group said Thursday.

Bishop Jia Zhiguo, 73, was taken away Thursday by security agents in Zhengding, a city in northern Hebei province, the Cardinal Kung Foundation said in a statement.

It wasn't immediately clear why he was detained, the group said.

A woman from Zhengding Public Security Bureau, who refused to give her name, said she wasn't aware of the case. The phone of Zhengding Religious Affairs Bureau rang unanswered.

China broke ties with the Vatican in 1951 and demands that Catholics worship only in government-controlled churches, which recognize the pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops.

Millions remain loyal to the pope and worship in secret, but priests and members of their congregations are frequently detained and harassed.

In June, Pope Benedict XVI made his most significant attempt to unite China's Catholics, issuing a letter urging the underground faithful and followers of the state-run church to overcome decades of animosity and distrust.

The foundation said that since the release of the letter, Jia was told several times by the religious affairs bureau that he wasn't allowed to publicly support and promulgate the letter.

It said more police had been watching Jia in the last five days and that anyone visiting him was questioned.

The statement said the action "by the Chinese government is not only contrary to the spirit of the China letter issued by the Pope almost two months ago, but also contrary to the generally accepted principles of human rights and to the spirits of the Olympic games."

Jia, who was ordained in 1980, has been detained at least 11 times since January 2004, according to the Kung Foundation. The most recent time was in June, but it isn't known for how long he was detained.

Jia's Zhengding diocese, 240 kilometers southwest of Beijing in Hebei, is a traditional stronghold of Catholic sentiment in northern China.

The rights group said a priest, Father Wen Daoxiu, of Qingyuan County in Hebei, was also detained on Aug. 15 for unknown reasons.

It said Wen, in his mid-50s, was in poor health.

A man named Li who answered the phone at the Qingyuan Public Security Bureau and another official surnamed Zhao from the Qingyuan Religious Bureau said they weren't aware of Wen's case. Both refused to give their full names.

The Cardinal Kung Foundation is named for the late Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pinmei of Shanghai, who spent 30 years in Chinese prisons and died in the U.S. in 2000 at age 98.

 

China and its Catholics

Cardinal principles (The Economist)

Jul 5th 2007 | BEIJING AND HONG KONG

From The Economist print edition

An historic chance of reconciliation with Catholics, if not democrats

IF THEY were seeking to justify their deep suspicion of Catholics, Chinese officials would have felt vindicated. On July 1st tens of thousands of Hong Kong citizens chose to mark their first decade under Chinese rule by marching through the streets to demand more democracy. Among them was Hong Kong's top Catholic, Cardinal Joseph Zen. But once easily riled, China is learning to swallow its anger.

So too are some of its critics. Pope Benedict, whose church has long upbraided China for its suppression of religious freedom, is now trying to make friends. In a rare and lengthy letter to Catholics in China last week the pope wrote in conciliatory terms about China's state-controlled Catholic church and bishops in it who have been appointed without the Vatican's approval. He also stressed that the church in China had no mission to change the country politically.

Ten years ago, when the British left Hong Kong, many Chinese officials expressed fears that pro-democracy politicians would plunge the territory into turmoil. They worried that they would also step up pressure on the Communist Party to change its dictatorial ways. But much has changed. After ten years of rapid economic growth, and with little social unrest, the party today seems less plagued by thoughts of its possible sudden demise.

There were far fewer pro-democracy marchers this year than in 2003, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets on July 1st in what has since become an annual ritual. The Hong Kong Transition Project, an academic group studying the impact of China's takeover, believes China's image has improved. In a survey in April it found nearly 70% of 800 respondents were satisfied with China's management of Hong Kong's affairs. Just before the British withdrawal, only 45% thought China was handling things well.

The demonstration was part of a well- oiled series of events marking the ten-year anniversary that day. As dragon-dancers and marching bands wound up their street celebrations, the democrats began their protest. They stuck to an authorised route finishing outside the Hong Kong government's headquarters. Few in Hong Kong believe the local authorities have much say in the territory's political development. But mainstream democrats diplomatically refrain from protesting outside the central government's local offices.

Such restraint allowed China's president, Hu Jintao, three days in Hong Kong largely untroubled by signs of dissent-he left just before the march. Mr Hu's duties included swearing in Donald Tsang, knighted by the British and a devout Catholic, for another five years as Hong Kong's chief executive. Also sworn in, as the new financial secretary, was John Tsang (no relation), a former private secretary to Hong Kong's last British governor, Chris Patten. Ten years ago China was nervous about giving top jobs to those with colonial links. Now it is far less concerned. Among those deployed to marshal the demonstration was a sprinkling of British officers.

Cardinal Zen's participation was condemned by a senior official from China's state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. The official, Liu Bainian, was quoted by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post as asking how the Vatican could win China's trust if it appointed people like the cardinal.

China's response to the pope's letter has been muted, which Cardinal Zen sees as a good sign. In fact, China may well be quietly pleased. One of the letter's aims was to discourage Catholics in China from shunning the state-sponsored church. This was established in 1957, six years after China severed ties with the Vatican and expelled foreign priests. Many local priests were imprisoned. Several are still in jail because of their opposition to the government church. China says it now has about 5m Catholics, but there are believed to be many millions more who worship in "underground" churches with priests not recognised by the state. The pope's letter said Catholics could worship in state churches, even if their priests had no links with the pope, if finding Vatican-approved clergy caused "grave inconvenience".

One of the main obstacles to improved relations between China and the Vatican has been the Vatican's insistence that it appoint bishops. China objects, fearful of losing control of the church. But there are signs of a possible compromise. In recent years it has often allowed names to be submitted to the pope in advance for his secret approval before its "official" ordination takes place. Last year, however, China made three appointments without Vatican clearance. Many believed this was partly prompted by Pope Benedict's decision to make Joseph Zen a cardinal in February 2006. Cardinal Zen, who dismisses any link with his appointment, described the ordinations as "acts of war".

The pope's letter was more tactful. It said some bishops who had been ordained under pressure without the Vatican's approval had subsequently asked for the pope's acknowledgement. He said he had granted this, taking into account "the sincerity of their sentiments and the complexity of the situation". The letter said the "very small number" of bishops who had not asked for or received the pope's blessing were "illegitimate". But they were still considered "validly ordained" as long as it was by validly ordained bishops.

Taiwan vaut bien une messe

China has strong motives to work out a deal. A rapprochement with the Vatican would do a lot to improve its human-rights image in the West. It would also deal a huge diplomatic blow to Taiwan. Last month Costa Rica switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, leaving Taiwan with just 24 states that still officially recognise it. The Vatican is by far the most influential of them.

For all Cardinal Zen's misgivings, China is not in a pugnacious mood. As it prepares to host the Olympic Games in Beijing next year, it is anxious to project a softer image. In Hong Kong Mr Hu, normally stiff and uncharismatic, briefly played table-tennis with a 13-year-old in front of television cameras.

China has railed against a proposal by Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian, to hold a referendum next year on whether Taiwan should apply to join the UN under the name Taiwan instead of the island's official title, the Republic of China. (To China, this sounds too much like a cutting of links with the mainland.) But so, in more diplomatic terms, have the Americans, who have much to lose if the Chinese get truly angry. For now, they are not.

 

Vatican Letter Tries to Bridge Chinese Divide

(WSJ)

By ANDREW BATSON

July 2, 2007BEIJING -- Pope Benedict XVI published an open letter to Chinese Catholics that seeks to resolve decades of rancorous division among the nation's believers and to speed the restoration of official ties between the Vatican and Beijing.

In his most significant statement on China since becoming the head of the Roman Catholic Church in 2005, Pope Benedict reached out to Chinese officials long suspicious of Catholicism. He said the church doesn't aim to challenge the Chinese government's authority, and he praised China's ancient civilization and recent progress. While calling for greater religious freedom, he said the Vatican is open to negotiations and believes an agreement for restoring relations with China is possible.

"This situation of misunderstandings and incomprehension weighs heavily, serving the interests of neither the Chinese authorities nor the Catholic Church in China," Pope Benedict wrote in the letter, dated May 27 and made public Saturday.

The letter marks the culmination of Vatican efforts in recent years to heal a decades-old rift that has hindered the growth of Catholicism in China. The Vatican and China haven't had formal ties since the 1950s, when the officially atheist Communist Party expelled foreign priests and placed Catholics under the direction of a state-sponsored organization. That official repression has led China's estimated 12 million Catholics into an often-bitter split between those who accept government supervision and those who reject it. Many Catholics worry that those internal divisions, and the uncertainty over relations with the Vatican, have handicapped the church's ability respond to a growing interest in religion in China.

Catholics are heavily outnumbered in China by various Protestant denominations, which have expanded rapidly. Pope Benedict seemed to share that assessment, calling such splits "a weakness in the church that causes concern."

A spokesman for China's foreign ministry said officials were aware of the letter, but didn't comment on its contents. China is "willing to continue frank and constructive dialogue with the Vatican in order to seek a solution to the two sides' differences," the spokesman, Qin Gang, said in a statement.

The pope's letter, addressed to individual believers and clergy, urged Chinese Catholics to put aside past grievances and focus on their shared faith. He praised adherents of underground churches, who have often been harassed and imprisoned in China.

 

Pope to mend relations with Beijing

(FT)

By Robin Kwong in Hong Kong

Published: July 1 2007 16:22 | Last updated: July 1 2007 16:22

Pope Benedict XVI has expressed confidence that the Vatican and China can resolve their differences over bishop appointments, one of the long-standing barriers to normalisation of relations between the two.

The Pope extended the olive branch in a letter issued at the weekend. In the first official papal letter addressed to all Chinese Catholics in 49 years, he also renewed calls for "respectful and constructive" dialogue between the Holy See and Beijing, which have not had official diplomatic relations since 1951.

China's 11m Catholics are courted by both "underground" churches loyal to Rome and state churches operating under the auspices of the Catholic Patriotic Association. Unilateral bishop appointments, which China resumed in 2006 after a six-year hiatus, exacerbated tensions between the world's most populous nation and the Vatican, which claims a global following of 1.1bn Catholics.

According to an informal arrangement dating back to 2000, the Holy See was given time to review and tacitly endorse bishopric candidates before their anointment by the CPA. But that truce was broken last year when Beijing ordained two of its own bishops. China appeared to be reacting to Pope Benedict's elevation of Hong Kong bishop Joseph Zen, an outspoken advocate for democracy and religious freedom, to cardinal.

In his letter, Pope Benedict maintained that the right to appoint bishops was "a constitutive element of the full exercise of the right to religious freedom", but hoped an agreement could be reached regarding choice of candidates, the publication of bishop appointments and the government's recognition of new bishops.

He gave individual bishops in China's underground churches the right to decide whether they should seek formal recognition from Beijing ? provided church principles were observed.

The Pope also issued new directives allowing Catholics to attend mass celebrated by "illegitimate", or state-appointed, bishops.

China's foreign ministry reiterated that diplomatic ties cannot be resumed unless the Vatican ceases its recognition of Taiwan and forswears "interference" in China's internal affairs.

Liu Bainan, the hardline vice-chairman of the CPA, said the official church would continue unilaterally appointing bishops until Sino-Vatican relationships were normalised.

 

Beno”t XVI dŽfend ses ouailles en Chine

(LibŽration)

PŽkin critique les accusations portŽes par le pape sur la libertŽ de culte. Par P.N. (avec AFP, Reuters)

QUOTIDIEN : lundi 2 juillet 2007

La Chine est un pays officiellement athŽe, et le Vatican n'a pas ˆ s'immiscer dans ses affaires intŽrieures au nom de la religion, rappellent les autoritŽs de PŽkin ˆ Beno”t XVI. Dans une longue lettre envoyŽe samedi aux catholiques chinois, le pape a critiquŽ les restrictions exercŽes par le pouvoir chinois sur la libertŽ de culte, qui Žtouffent l'activitŽ pastorale et sment la division parmi les fidles, rŽclamant une authentique libertŽ religieuse.

RŽaliste. S'il est prt ˆ amŽliorer les relations avec la Chine, le Vatican doit agir plut™t que de crŽer de nouveaux obstacles, a rŽpliquŽ dans un communiquŽ trs court le ministre des Affaires Žtrangres, rappelant son leitmotiv : Le Vatican doit interrompre ses prŽtendues relations diplomatiques avec Taiwan et reconna”tre que la RŽpublique populaire de Chine est le seul gouvernement. Une attitude rŽaliste, selon PŽkin. Beno”t XVI, qui souhaite une normalisation, a pourtant mis les formes, dans sa lettre publiŽe en mandarin sur le site du Vatican et surtout destinŽe aux 8 ˆ 12 millions de pratiquants chinois : Il est vrai que, ces dernires annŽes, l'Eglise jouit en regard du passŽ d'une plus grande libertŽ, le Saint-Sige demeure ouvert aux nŽgociations qui sont nŽcessaires pour dŽpasser le difficile moment prŽsent, ajoute-t-il, mais on ne peut nier que demeurent de graves limitations qui touchent le coeur de la foi. Je suis conscient que la normalisation demande du temps et qu'elle prŽsuppose la bonne volontŽ des deux parties, dit aussi Beno”t XVI, qui a raison sur ce point.

Durcissement. L'histoire est dŽjˆ longue entre les deux Etats. En 1951, le Vatican a reconnu Taiwan, o s'Žtait enfui le nonce apostolique. Le gouvernement de PŽkin, obsŽdŽ par le retour de l'”le rebelle dans la mre patrie, a alors obligŽ les -catholiques ˆ couper tout lien avec le Saint-Sige, et a cessŽ ses relations diplomatiques. Depuis 1957, les fidles ne sont autorisŽs ˆ pratiquer qu'au sein de l'Association -catholique patriotique de Chine, entirement contr™lŽe par l'Etat communiste. PersŽcutŽs -durant la RŽvolution culturelle, ils ont profitŽ des -annŽes 80 pour se rŽorganiser, certains dans le giron de l'Eglise -patriotique. Les autres, 30 ˆ 40 % selon le -Vatican, ont crŽŽ des Eglises -clandestines, qui sont plus ou moins tolŽrŽes aujourd'hui en Chine.

Il y aurait 130 diocses, 80 Žvques officiels en Chine, dont 90 % sont reconnus par -Rome, selon les spŽcialistes. Le principal Žcueil, pour des -relations normalisŽes, reste la nomination des Žvques, dont PŽkin veut garder la prŽrogative. En 2006, l'ordination de trois Žvques de l'Eglise -patriotique sans l'accord du Vatican a provoquŽ un durcissement trs net. Aprs deux millŽnaires europŽens et amŽricains fastes pour les catholiques, le pape espre que le troisime sera asiatique : Une grande moisson de foi sera recueillie dans le vaste et vivant continent asiatique, Žcrit-il dans sa lettre aux Chinois. Cela ne semble pas entrer dans les projets immŽdiats de -PŽkin.

http://www.liberation.fr/actualite/monde/264649.FR.php

_ LibŽration

 

Guiding China's Catholics

(WSJ)

July 3, 2007

The Vatican released a pastoral letter from Pope Benedict XVI to China's Catholics on Saturday, and its major theme was, as expected, reconciliation. Most commentators will focus on what that means for diplomatic relations between the Vatican and China. But the Pope's more important advice is aimed squarely inside the Chinese Church itself.

Since the Party expelled the Vatican's representative in 1951, many Catholics in China have worshipped in underground churches. They had good reason to do so; as it did to other religious groups, the Party unleashed waves of terror onto the Catholic community that exists to this day. The Communists then set up their own, state-run churches -- no small irony for a godless ideology.

The situation created a conundrum for the Catholic faithful: Should they worship underground, at personal risk, or above ground, at a church not recognized by the Vatican? Many parishioners view the state-run churches as heretical; others didn't believe underground bishops who claimed to be recognized by the Vatican -- as most are. The Vatican further confused matters by maintaining that Beijing-ordained priests could give communion in some circumstances.

Enter Pope Benedict. China's bishops, he writes, can pursue reconciliation with the state-run church so long as it's safe to do so and they can maintain their devotion to the Vatican. "The clandestine condition," he writes, "is not a normal feature of the Church's life." And, "especially where there is little room for freedom . . . to evaluate the morality of an act it is necessary to devote particular care to establishing the real intentions of the persons concerned."

Benedict's letter may upset Chinese Catholics who have suffered at the hand of the Party. It might also distress those in the Vatican who would prefer to take a harder line, insisting that China ease religious curbs before the Vatican strikes a softer note. In any event, the Pope is stepping out on a limb, as his advice to underground bishops to come out in the open may encourage the Party to crack down harder on those who remain in hiding.

Still, the Pope's broader message carries a nugget of advice for China's Communist policy makers, too. After all, how moral are the Party's intentions toward its faithful? And how will those policy makers be judged?

 

Le ton monte entre le pape et la Chine

(le Figaro)

L.S. (lefigaro.fr) avec AFP.

PubliŽ le 30 juin 2007

ActualisŽ le 30 juin 2007 : 14h58

PŽkin oppose une fin de non-recevoir aux demandes de Beno”t XVI sur la libertŽ religieuse.

Il faudra du temps et de la bonne volontŽ des deux parties pour parvenir ˆ la normalisation des relations avec la RŽpublique populaire de Chine , avait prŽvenu Beno”t XVI, en adressant une lettre ˆ la Chine et aux Chinois. Le pape ne se trompait pas, mais PŽkin ne semble pas disposŽ, ˆ l'heure actuelle, ˆ afficher sa bonne volontŽ . En guise de rŽponse, la Chine a en effet a appelŽ le Vatican ˆ adopter une attitude rŽaliste , ˆ ne pas crŽer de nouveaux obstacles ˆ l'amŽlioration des relations bilatŽrales, et ˆ ne pas s'ingŽrer dans les affaires intŽrieures de la Chine au nom du catholicisme , selon un communiquŽ du ministre chinois des Affaires Žtrangres.

Dans sa lettre rendue publique samedi, le pape demandait ˆ la Chine le respect d'une authentique libertŽ religieuse et rejetait l'idŽe d'une Eglise soumise aux autoritŽs chinoises et indŽpendante du Vatican.

Le Saint-Sige et la Chine n'entretiennent plus de relations diplomatiques depuis 1951 et la reconnaissance de Taiwan par le Vatican. La Chine a rappelŽ dans son communiquŽ les deux conditions du rŽtablissement de ces relations : la rupture des relations diplomatiques entre le Vatican et Ta_wan, que la Chine considre comme une province, ainsi que le pouvoir de nommer les membres du clergŽ. Le souverain pontife indique de son c™tŽ ne reconna”tre aucune lŽgitimitŽ au collge des Žvques catholiques de Chine constituŽ sous l'autoritŽ du pouvoir politique, ni ˆ l'association patriotique qui contr™le l'Eglise officielle, et rŽclame de pouvoir nommer seul les Žvques chinois

 

Le pape veut renouer le dialogue avec la Chine, mais exige la libertŽ totale des catholiques

(le Monde)

LE MONDE | 02.07.07 | 14h50 _ Mis ˆ jour le 02.07.07 | 14h51

Renouer le dialogue avec la Chine est l'une des grandes ambitions de Beno”t XVI. Depuis la rupture de 1951, un pape a publiŽ pour la premire fois, samedi 30 juin, un document complet, prŽcis, sans langue de bois, pour signifier ˆ la Chine sa volontŽ de dialogue, en maintenant toutes ses exigences. Les catholiques de Chine sont un "petit troupeau" (8 ˆ 12 millions), exemplaire par sa "fidŽlitŽ", tŽmoin d'une foi "persŽcutŽe", Žcrit le pape, mais sa "normalisation" serait un pas de gŽant pour les libertŽs.

IndŽpendance par rapport ˆ l'Etat, unitŽ des fidles et du clergŽ dans une seule Eglise, libertŽ de nomination des Žvques : tels sont les trois messages que le pape a adressŽs ˆ PŽkin.

Concernant l'indŽpendance, l'Eglise en Chine ne rŽclame "aucun privilge". Elle n'a d'autre ambition qu'un "service humble et dŽsintŽressŽ" de toute la population. Les catholiques se conduisent comme "de bons citoyens, des collaborateurs respectueux et actifs du bien commun". En contrepartie, ils exigent un exercice totalement libre de leur religion.

Le pape admet qu'"au regard du passŽ, l'Eglise de Chine jouit d'une plus grande libertŽ". Mais il ajoute que "de graves limitations touchent le coeur de la foi" et "Žtouffent" encore l'activitŽ des croyants. Il ne veut plus de la situation de "conflit permanent", sans pour autant tomber dans la "complaisance". Jamais un pape n'avait Žtabli aussi fermement l'agenda de reprise d'un dialogue.

Le deuxime message est celui de la rŽunification d'une Eglise coupŽe en deux depuis la RŽvolution chinoise : d'une part, les catholiques "officiels", dŽpendant de l'Association patriotique crŽŽe il y a cinquante ans - organisme Žtatique de direction et de surveillance du clergŽ et des fidles - ; d'autre part, les catholiques "clandestins". Beno”t XVI dŽnonce "la prŽtention de ces organismes imposŽs, voulus par l'Etat, de se placer au-dessus des Žvques et de vouloir guider la vie de l'Eglise". Pour lui, l'Association patriotique est une anomalie, de mme que le "Collge des Žvques catholiques de Chine", qui ne peut pas se prŽvaloir du statut d'une ConfŽrence Žpiscopale.

DES &EACUTE;V&ECIRC;QUES LIBREMENT NOMM&EACUTE;S

Le pape lance donc un appel ˆ l'unitŽ des fidles et du clergŽ chinois au sein d'une seule Eglise indŽpendante de l'Etat, libre de sa direction et de ses relations avec l'Eglise universelle, symbolisŽe par le pape ˆ Rome. "La clandestinitŽ ne rentre pas dans la normalitŽ de la vie de l'Eglise", insiste-t-il. Les actuels prtres et Žvques clandestins doivent tre reconnus sans tarder par les autoritŽs civiles.

Reste l'irritante question de la nomination des Žvques, soit le contr™le ˆ la base des communautŽs, prŽtexte ˆ des dŽmlŽs rŽguliers. La plupart des Žvques "officiels" sont nommŽs par les autoritŽs et leur situation est rŽgularisŽe a posteriori par Rome au cas par cas. PŽkin n'entend pas renoncer ˆ cette prŽrogative qui, pour le pape, est intolŽrable. C'est ˆ lui qu'il appartient de nommer les Žvques (4 500 dans le monde), afin de garantir l'unitŽ de direction de son Eglise. Tout contrevenant s'expose ˆ des sanctions.

PŽkin accuse le Vatican d'ingŽrence dans les affaires chinoises. Beno”t XVI rŽpond qu'il n'a aucune intention de "lŽser la souverainetŽ" de la Chine. Des nominations d'Žvque ont pu se faire rŽcemment d'un commun accord entre PŽkin et la diplomatie vaticane. Mais l'ordination de trois d'entre eux en 2006, sans l'accord prŽalable de Rome, a provoquŽ un rude conflit. Le pape rve d'une "libertŽ totale" de nomination des Žvques chinois, d'un accord dŽfinitif pour rŽsoudre les contentieux liŽs au choix des candidats, ˆ la publication de leur nom, ˆ leur reconnaissance. Il y a urgence. La Chine compte 148 diocses : 49 Žvques sont morts depuis 2000 et les deux tiers ont plus de 80 ans !

Cette lettre de Beno”t XVI avait ŽtŽ d'abord soumise aux dirigeants chinois. La premire rŽaction du ministre des affaires Žtrangres n'augure pas d'un changement d'attitude. Elle rappelle les deux conditions que pose PŽkin ˆ tout rŽtablissement des relations : la rupture du Vatican avec Taiwan (PŽkin sait que le Vatican n'y fait plus obstacle) et sa souverainetŽ sur les nominations. Un an avant les Jeux olympiques, le ton ouvert de cette lettre est pourtant une chance inespŽrŽe de reprise d'un dialogue.

Henri Tincq Article paru dans l'Ždition du 03.07.07

 

Beno”t XVI demande ˆ PŽkin de garantir aux citoyens catholiques le plein exercice de leur foi (le Monde)

LEMONDE.FR avec AFP | 30.06.07 | 14h12 _ Mis ˆ jour le 30.06.07 | 14h17

Dans une lettre au clergŽ et aux catholiques de Chine publiŽe samedi 30 juin, le pape Beno”t XVI demande ˆ PŽkin "le respect d'une authentique libertŽ religieuse" et rejette l'idŽe d'une Eglise soumise aux autoritŽs chinoises et indŽpendante du Vatican.

Cette lettre du pape Žtait attendue depuis le 20 janvier, quand s'Žtait tenue au Vatican une rŽunion sur la situation de l'Eglise en Chine, o vivent 8 ˆ 14 millions de catholiques. Le Saint-Sige et la Chine n'entretiennent plus de relations diplomatiques depuis 1951 et la reconnaissance de Taiwan par le Vatican. La rupture entre les deux Etats s'est encore aggravŽe en juillet 1957 avec la crŽation sur le continent d'une Eglise catholique patriotique ("Association catholique patriotique de Chine"). Les persŽcutions de la RŽvolution culturelle visant tous les croyants aggraveront encore la situation. Avec les annŽes 1980, et dŽbut de l'ouverture et des rŽformes Žconomiques, les catholiques de l'Eglise clandestine se renforcent et un dŽbut de normalisation des rapports entre les deux Žglises prend forme.

"DU TEMPS ET DE LA BONNE VOLONT&EACUTE;"

Dans sa lettre, le pape adresse des signes de bonne volontŽ au pouvoir chinois, demandant aux fidles d'tre "de bons citoyens, des collaborateurs respectueux et actifs en faveur du bien commun de leur pays". En contrepartie, il appelle l'Etat chinois ˆ "garantir ˆ ces mmes citoyens catholiques le plein exercice de leur foi, dans le respect d'une authentique libertŽ religieuse". Beno”t XVI demande ainsi ˆ PŽkin la libertŽ de nommer les Žvques et souligne que l'idŽe "d'une Eglise indŽpendante" du Vatican "est incompatible avec la doctrine catholique".

En ce sens, Beno”t XVI ne reconna”t aucune lŽgitimitŽ au collge des Žvques catholiques de Chine constituŽ sous l'autoritŽ du pouvoir politique, ni ˆ "l'association patriotique" qui contr™le l'Eglise officielle. "La prŽtention de certains organismes, voulus par l'Etat et Žtrangers ˆ la structure de l'Eglise, de se placer au-dessus des Žvques et de guider la vie de la communautŽ, ne correspond pas ˆ la doctrine de l'Eglise", rŽpte-t-il.

"Ouvert aux nŽgociations", le pape souhaite cependant "que l'on trouve un accord avec le gouvernement pour rŽsoudre certaines questions concernant soit le choix des candidats ˆ l'Žpiscopat". RŽaliste, le souverain pontife souligne cependant qu'il faudra "du temps et de la bonne volontŽ des deux parties" pour parvenir ˆ "la normalisation des relations avec la RŽpublique populaire de Chine".

 

NEWS ALERT: China Detains Eight House Church Leaders in Shandong and Shaanxi Provinces

Wednesday, 27 June 2007 (11 hours ago)

BosNewsLife News Center (in the Economist)

BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)-- Eight Chinese 'house church' leaders from China's Shaanxi and Shandong provinces remained detained and faced the prospect of serving time in labor camps Wednesday, June 27, after a police crackdown on Bible distribution and worship services, rights watchers and fellow Christians said.

 

Shanghai Bishop Hopeful For Vatican-China Progress

(WSJ)

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

June 11, 2007 9:29 p.m.

ROME (AP)--The government-backed Catholic bishop of Shanghai says he hopes the Vatican and China can restore ties, but warns that reconciling believers from the official and underground churches won't be easy.

In an interview with the Italian religious affairs magazine 30 Days, Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian said the faithful from China's official church were eagerly awaiting an upcoming letter from Pope Benedict XVI on the state of the Catholic church in China.

But the faithful in the underground church were worried, he was quoted as saying.

"They underground faithful cannot help but have some concerns, or the fear of being repudiated," he said, according to the magazine.

China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the officially atheist Communist Party took power. Worship is allowed only in government-controlled churches, which recognize the pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops.

Millions of Chinese, however, belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome. Many unofficial congregations hold services openly, but in some regions they are routinely harassed and their priests and bishops arrested.

Benedict has been reaching out to Beijing, eager to bring China's estimated 12 million Catholics under Rome's wing. But the two sides have been at loggerheads over the Vatican's insistence on naming bishops.

In a landmark move, the Vatican and the Chinese government agreed on the nomination of Jin's auxiliary bishop, Joseph Xing Wenzhi, who was consecrated in 2005. But not even that nomination has gone over smoothly with the underground faithful, Jin said.

"We had at first hoped that the underground faithful would recognize him, because he was nominated by Rome. But reality isn't so simple," Jin was quoted as saying.

Many Catholics in Shanghai reject the authority of Jin and others in the official Church. They regard another elderly priest in the underground church, Joseph Fan Zhongliang, as Shanghai's true bishop.

"Reconciliation and the return of unity of the registered and non-registered community will find great difficulties," Jin reportedly said.

Jin, 91, said he was hoping Rome would name Xing coadjutor bishop of Shanghai and make him his successor. "I truly hope that his consecration becomes a model," he said, according to the magazine

Jin said he hoped the Beijing government would understand the Vatican's insistence on naming bishops, and said the pending nomination of Beijing's new bishop would be something to watch.

Beijing Bishop Fu Tieshan of the official church died April 20.

"I hope that the Holy See and the Chinese government will develop good contacts to avoid unnecessary problems" in naming Fu's successor, Jin was quoted as saying.

Jin acknowledged that some officials of the official Patriotic Association were opposed to any restarting of ties between the official church and the Vatican.

"But I personally believe that the Patriotic Association cannot intervene in China's political decisions. All we need is some high-level political official to decide to relauch relations with the Vatican, and the Patriotic Association won't have the ability to create obstacles," he was quoted as saying.

 

Chinese priests in property dispute return home

The Boston Globe

http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2005/12/26/chinese_priests_in_property_dispute_return_home/

By Ben Blanchard and Chris Buckley | December 26, 2005

BEIJING (Reuters) - A group of Chinese Catholic priests and nuns locked in a property dispute with a city government went home over the weekend, but another group of nuns remain holed up in a historic chapel demanding that its ownership be returned to the Church.

Nuns belonging to the Sisters of Charity have occupied the abandoned chapel in the northern port city of Tianjin since August, demanding the building be returned to their hands, one of the nuns, who gave her surname as Liu, said on Monday.

It is the second land dispute in Tianjin between the city government and the Catholic Church, highlighting the tensions between religion and government control in China, even as Beijing courts diplomatic ties with the Vatican.

The priests and nuns are all members of China's official Catholic Church, which respects the Pope as a spiritual leader but rejects his administrative authority.

Liu said the chapel has "historic significance" for her order. In 1870, the building, an adjoining orphanage and nunnery, as well as other Tianjin churches were burned down in anti-Western riots, and 10 nuns were killed.

In 1903 the chapel was rebuilt and it remained in Church hands until after the Communist takeover in 1949. In later decades the chapel disappeared behind new buildings and the nuns, who regrouped in 1980, assumed it was destroyed.

But in 2003 the demolition of a handkerchief factory revealed the chapel had survived, and the nuns have since been demanding its return, Liu said.

About 10 nuns have occupied the chapel day and night since August, when developers moved to demolish it.

"If we didn't move in, they would have taken it away from us," said another nun, who asked not to be named. "The place means a lot to us, but officials have just ignored our requests for its return."

HEADING HOME

The other religious property protest in Tianjin petered out over the weekend when the last of a group that originally numbered almost 50 returned to their home province of Shanxi.

The mayor promised that if the remaining 13 priests, nuns and seminarians went home, he would deal with the dispute, one of the priests said.

"We've not given up our demand," the priest said by telephone from Shanxi. "But we had to give the mayor face. He said the deadlock could not go on as it would make the situation even harder to solve."

The low-rise, colonial-style building in the former Italian concession in Tianjin, southeast of Beijing, was owned by the Shanxi Catholics before the 1949 Communist revolution.

The building was then seized by the government and has never been handed back despite a 1993 promise to do so, the priest said.

"We believe that if the Tianjin government has given their word, it will be solved soon. We still want them to give the building back so we can manage it," he said, before the line was abruptly cut. He could not be reached again.

The Tianjin city government declined comment, but sent a fax of an article from the official Xinhua news agency dated December 23 on the dispute.

"The Tianjin government has a firm and clear policy on religious properties and the protection of the legal rights of religious groups," it quoted a spokesman from the State Bureau of Religious Affairs as saying.

Chinese police regularly harass members of the underground Roman Catholic Church, but generally leave religious services alone.

Beijing has had no ties with the Vatican since 1951 and insists relations cannot be resumed unless the Holy See severs links with self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

Since China restored officially controlled religion in the 1980s, it has selectively returned confiscated land to Catholic churches. But in many places land remains in dispute.

 

ChrŽtiens en ombres chinoises

(le Monde)

LE MONDE | 23.05.07 | 14h45 _ Mis ˆ jour le 23.05.07 | 14h45

ENVOY&EACUTE; SP&EACUTE;CIAL &AGRAVE; FENGXIANG ET DANS LA PROVINCE DU HEBEI

Mgr Li Jinfeng est un dr™le de paroissien : l'Žvque de Fengxiang, gros bourg poussiŽreux de la province du Shaanxi, fait partie de la mouvance catholique de l'Eglise clandestine chinoise et exerce illŽgalement son ministre tout en s'Žtant assurŽ du soutien bienveillant des responsables locaux du Parti communiste... Une situation singulire mais plus si inŽdite dans la Chine d'aujourd'hui : les rapports Žvoluent entre l'Etat et certains "rŽsistants" d'une communautŽ de catholiques pour lesquels seule comptait autrefois l'autoritŽ du Vatican.

L'Žvque vit dans le petit presbytre situŽ derrire une Žglise de style pour le moins baroque, sorte de monumentale p‰tisserie architecturale que personne ne pourrait qualifier de clandestine. Elle domine de sa vingtaine de mtres une grande cour ouverte sur l'une des grandes rues de la ville. PlantŽe au coeur de Fengxiang, mais dŽpourvue de toute existence lŽgale, l'Žglise symbolise ces "zones grises" qui, en Chine, bousculent les lignes sŽparant l'interdit, l'autorisŽ et le tolŽrŽ.

Les relations qu'entretient l'Žvque avec les autoritŽs sont le signe de changements intervenus entre les deux Eglises : l'officielle, dŽpendante du rŽgime, non reconnue par Rome, et la souterraine, qui obŽit au Vatican et rŽsiste depuis des lustres au pouvoir chinois. Quatre millions de fidles appartiennent ˆ la premire, entre cinq et neuf millions ˆ la seconde. Monseigneur est un petit homme de 87 ans, bon pied, bon oeil malin derrire une grosse paire de lunettes. Il parle et lit le latin, a appris des rudiments d'italien et mme de franais en solitaire.

Son passŽ rŽsume ˆ lui seul les vies brisŽes des catholiques de Chine populaire. ArrtŽ en 1958, sept ans aprs la rupture des liens entre le Vatican et PŽkin et alors que la rŽpression s'Žtait durcie contre les croyants de toutes religions, il sera, jusqu'ˆ la fin de sa peine, en 1973, ballottŽ de prisons en camps de travail. Puis il est forcŽ d'intŽgrer une unitŽ pour anciens dŽtenus. Il devient mineur.

"J'ai rŽussi, gr‰ce ˆ Dieu, ˆ traverser toutes ces Žpreuves sans trop de mal, observe-t-il aujourd'hui, assis dans son petit bureau croulant sous les livres. A la mine, j'Žtais gardien et l'on ne m'obligeait pas ˆ descendre au fond du trou, mme si je le faisais parfois pour gagner un peu d'argent supplŽmentaire."

Mgr Li retrouve la libertŽ en 1979. Son prŽdŽcesseur, malade, trs ‰gŽ, lui demande de prendre la succession. Le 25 avril 1980, il est nommŽ Žvque, dans la clandestinitŽ absolue. "La bulle du pape en peau d'agneau annonant ma nomination a ŽtŽ envoyŽe ˆ Hongkong, car je ne pouvais directement la recevoir ici..."

Le prŽlat n'a jamais acceptŽ d'adhŽrer ˆ l'Association patriotique des catholiques, crŽŽe en 1982. Celle-ci rassemble les catholiques d'une Eglise aux ordres du pouvoir, qui nomme elle-mme ses Žvques le plus souvent au mŽpris du Saint-Sige. "Les envoyŽs de l'Association, qui connaissaient Žvidemment mon existence, m'ont demandŽ de les rejoindre ˆ plusieurs reprises. J'ai toujours refusŽ, estimant qu'il ne m'Žtait pas possible de devenir membre d'une organisation ne reconnaissant pas le Saint-Pre..."

Mais, malgrŽ sa rŽsistance au "formatage", l'Žvque a forgŽ "une trs bonne relation avec les cadres locaux", selon son expression. Un modus vivendi qui lui permet de garantir la sŽcuritŽ de ses 20 000 fidles, de ses 40 prtres - dont 10 Žtudient ˆ l'Žtranger, l'un d'eux en France - et de ses 39 moines et religieuses. "Cette situation est un cas assez unique", admet-il.

Un jour, des cadres communistes sont venus le voir pour lui demander de coopŽrer avec le gouvernement. Aprs moult discussions et nŽgociations, on a fini de part et d'autre par choisir le compromis, le refus d'une confrontation stŽrile. Aprs tout, Mgr Li est aussi le garant pour le pouvoir de la bonne conduite de ses fidles... Des catholiques de l'Eglise souterraine sont venus le voir il y a quelque temps. Ils n'arrivaient pas ˆ croire qu'il Žtait encore membre de leur mouvance. "Je ne menace pas le pouvoir en portant la mitre et la crosse, dit-il avec malice. A l'exception des questions religieuses, je suis tout ˆ fait d'accord avec les autoritŽs !" Quel contraste pour le vieil Žvque ! En novembre 2001, des policiers avaient fait irruption au presbytre, lui enjoignant "de prendre beaucoup de vtements", l'arrtant pour plusieurs semaines avant de lui conseiller vertement de suivre des "sessions de rŽŽducation" !

La situation de Mgr Li est "inŽdite". Mais il n'est plus le seul ˆ avoir choisi la voie du compromis, comme le prouvent plusieurs exemples de "collaboration" avec les autoritŽs de la part de prŽlats autrefois clandestins. Ce nouveau type de relations a contribuŽ ˆ dŽtendre l'atmosphre dans tout le district. Il suffit de sortir de Fengxiang pour s'en convaincre. Non loin de la ville, ˆ environ une demi-heure de piste ˆ travers les hauts plants de mais, une Žglise ˆ deux clochers, construite en 1995, rompt la monotonie du paysage. Au bout, c'est le village de Wa Yaoutou, 400 ‰mes dont 300 catholiques.

"Nous n'avons aucun problme avec les autoritŽs", explique M. Wang, un paysan dont le pre et le grand-pre Žtaient catholiques. Assis dans le minuscule salon de sa maison b‰tie dans l'unique rue, au pied de l'Žglise, il se fŽlicite qu'en "cas d'Žventuelles difficultŽs il suffit d'aller en parler ˆ l'Žvque". A quelques centaines de mtres de lˆ, les religieuses "clandestines" d'un couvent tiennent un discours semblable. La Mre supŽrieure se souvient qu'"il y a trois ans des gens du gouvernement local sont venus nous demander de ne pas habiter ensemble. Ils venaient de dŽcouvrir qu'ici c'est un couvent ! Mais depuis deux ans, tout va bien. Des cadres du parti viennent mme discuter tranquillement avec nous." A quelques dizaines de kilomtres de lˆ, plus loin dans la campagne, dans un autre couvent de moines franciscains, les Frres admettent que leur situation de "clandestins" s'est considŽrablement amŽliorŽe. Le couvent s'organise autour d'un ensemble assez vaste de b‰timents, une grande chapelle, un rŽfectoire, une cuisine, des cellules monastiques, des salles de travail, un potager... tout ce qu'il faut pour garantir ˆ la dizaine de reclus un certain degrŽ d'autarcie.

1 | 2 | suivant

Bruno Philip

Article paru dans l'Ždition du 24.05.07.

 

Une explosion des religions sous Žtroite surveillance

(le Monde)

LE MONDE | 23.05.07 | 14h45

Garantie par la Constitution depuis 1980, aprs la fin des annŽes du maoisme athŽe radical, la libertŽ de croyance en Chine suscite un grossissement continu des rangs de presque toutes les grandes religions.

Sous l'oeil sourcilleux d'un pouvoir qui a rel‰chŽ son contr™le sur l'individu mais reste trs attentif ˆ l'Žmergence du fait religieux, le dŽsir spirituel rena”t. Mais le rŽgime est autant soucieux d'instrumentaliser les religions ˆ son bŽnŽfice quand il exalte les "valeurs morales" que de se prŽmunir contre l'Žmergence incontr™lable de groupes religieux pouvant menacer le monopole du parti. Les chiffres officiels concernant le nombre de fidles, toutes religions confondues, sont trs infŽrieurs ˆ la rŽalitŽ. Un sondage rŽcent, rŽalisŽ par l'UniversitŽ normale de Shanghai, fait Žtat d'un total de 300 millions de croyants en RŽpublique populaire, soit trois fois plus que les chiffres du rŽgime...

De source officielle, il y aurait ainsi 5 millions de catholiques. En fait, si l'on y ajoute le nombre des croyants appartenant ˆ l'Eglise clandestine, 11, voire 14 millions de Chinois seraient catholiques. Mme chose pour les protestants. Officiellement, ils sont 16 millions. En rŽalitŽ, les diffŽrentes sectes pentec™tistes, ŽvangŽlistes, anglicanes ou luthŽriennes ont le vent en poupe et pourraient totaliser une quarantaine de millions de fidles. Ici comme ailleurs dans d'autres rŽgions du monde, le protestantisme sŽduit de plus en plus, notamment parce qu'il fait miroiter ˆ l'individu les avantages d'une religion plus personnelle, dŽconnectŽe des commandements temporels d'une "superstructure" autoritaire comme le Vatican.

Le nombre de musulmans, que cela soit les Huis, descendants de commerants arabo-persans, ou les Ouigours, turcophones de la province occidentale du Xinjiang, est estimŽ ˆ une vingtaine de millions de personnes. Les Ouigours, souvent hostiles ˆ la colonisation des Chinois hans sur leur territoire et dont une minoritŽ est tiraillŽe par des vellŽitŽs d'indŽpendance, suscitent la mŽfiance de PŽkin, qui rŽprime sans pitiŽ religieux et militants sŽparatistes dans ces lointaines marches de l'empire. Les Huis, dispersŽs dans tout le pays, ne sont en revanche pas perus comme une menace politique, mme si un nombre croissant de jeunes musulmans partis faire des Žtudes coraniques en Arabie saoudite ou dans d'autres pays arabes reviennent en Chine ragaillardis par les prŽceptes d'un islam plus rigoureux, voire plus intŽgriste sur le plan des valeurs morales.

La liste serait incomplte si elle ne mentionnait pas des religions plus... chinoises qui, elles aussi, redeviennent de plus en plus populaires. Les bouddhistes sont les plus nombreux en Chine, leurs fidles Žtant estimŽs ˆ 8 % de la population, soit plus de 100 millions de personnes, par un rapport du service des libertŽs religieuses du dŽpartement d'Etat amŽricain. Officiellement, les statistiques sont inexistantes. Mais un nombre croissant de Chinois hans se rendent au Tibet, pas seulement pour des motifs commerciaux liŽs aux opportunitŽs offertes par le Grand Ouest chinois, mais aussi pour des raisons liŽes ˆ la fascination exercŽe par le bouddhisme lamaique...

Quant au taoisme, qui est autant une religion qu'une philosophie, il ferait continuellement de nouveaux adeptes sans que les fidles des prŽceptes de Lao Tseu puissent tre rŽpertoriŽs.

Article paru dans l'Ždition du 24.05.07.

 

Top Law Firm for Human Rights Suspended After Filing Parole Papers for Jailed Beijing Church Leader

To: National & International Desks

Contact: Bob Fu, China Aid Association, 267-205-5210, 432-689-6985, bobfu@ChinaAid.org

MIDLAND, Texas, Nov. 4 /Christian Wire Service/ --China Aid Association learned that November 4, 2005, a top law firm in Beijing known for defending human rights was ordered closed for one year by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice.

According to reliable reports, Mr. Gao Zhisheng, the director of Beijing Shengzhi Law Firm, received a formal government notice that all of his law firm operations are suspended for one year. Hours before receiving the closure notice, Mr. Gao filed parole documents with the Beijing People's Court of Haidian District for Ms. Xiao Yunfei, the wife of jailed house church leader Pastor Cai Zhuohua. He is one of the defense lawyers for Pastor Cai, his wife Ms. Xiao Yunfei and two other family members who were arrested last September. The Chinese government accused them of "illegal business practices" for printing and distributing hundreds of thousands of copies of the Bible and other Christian literature. They are being held following their trial and awaiting a verdict.

In an interview with Bob Fu, president of CAA the morning of November 4 following the parole paper filing he stated that the arrests of Pastor Cai and other family members and the more than one year continuous detention following a trial without a verdict is illegal according to Chinese law.

It's widely believed that the retributive actions taken against Mr. Gao and his law firm by the Chinese government is due to his active role in defending human rights and religious freedom cases like Pastor Cai's case. He also defended several other high profile cases including persecuted Falun Gong practitioners. After days of intensive investigations and interviews with numerous victims, he issued an open letter to both Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao a few weeks ago demanding that they stop persecuting peaceful Falun Gong practitioners.

"It is a very dark day and a devastating blow to the rule of law in China," said Bob Fu, President of CA. "Instead of holding the human rights and religious freedom violators accountable, the Chinese government chooses to suppress these conscientious defenders of human rights."

People of conscience around the world are urged to pray for and protest against the barbaric actions by these related government agencies.

Emails and phone calls of encouragement can be sent at the following address:

Mr. Gao Zhisheng +86-10-81990759 Email: gaozhisheng@263.net

Issued by China Aid Association, Inc. November 4, 2005

 

Two Chinese priests detained

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1103AP_Vatican_China_Priests_Detained.html

Sunday, October 30, 2005 _ Last updated 5:52 p.m. PT, Associated Press

ROME -- Two priests from China's underground Catholic Church have been detained, a Vatican-affiliated missionary news agency reported. The two had reportedly just given a rare interview to a foreign journalist.

The AsiaNews missionary agency said Friday that the Revs. Shao Zhumin and Paul Jiang Sunian, from the underground church in Wenzhou on China's southeast coast, were detained Thursday after celebrating Mass.

The report said the detentions were unusual because the situation of underground priests in Wenzhou had been "calm" for some time.

On Friday, however, the Italian newsweekly Espresso published a two-page article in which it said it had interviewed the two priests, as well as a third, and that they had "risked arrest" by speaking to a foreign journalist.

The article said that two days after the interview was conducted, Chinese police followed the reporter and took her interpreter to the police station.

In the interview, the priests spoke of previous detentions, with Shao saying he had been asked after his Sept. 7, 1999, detention to make a declaration "to evaluate whether I had become patriotic."

China allows worship in government-controlled churches and appoints its own priests and bishops. Chinese Catholics who meet outside the sanctioned churches are frequently harassed by authorities.

Pope Benedict XVI has been reaching out to the Beijing government in hopes of restoring diplomatic relations and bringing all of China's estimated 12 million Catholics under Rome's wing.

 

China releases Protestant church activist

By CHRISTOPHER BODEENASSOCIATED PRESS WRITERSEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER

Wednesday, September 28, 2005 _ Lastupdated 6:08 a.m. PT

SHANGHAI, China -- A prominent activist in China's underground Protestant church has been released from a labor camp after serving a two-year sentence, a U.S.-based monitoring group reported Wednesday.

Zhang Yinan, 47, left a camp near the central China city of Zhengzhou on Sunday, according to the China Aid Association, headquartered in Midland, Texas.

China's officially atheistic Communist authorities allow worship only in tightly controlled state churches, and those who meet outside - often in members' homes - are routinely harassed and fined, and sometimes sent to labor camps.

While underground church organizers can receive sentences of several years in prison, China Aid Association President Bob Fu said international attention given to Zhang's case had persuaded China to give him a relatively light punishment.

"We urge the Chinese government to release all the prisoners of conscience like Mr. Zhang," Fu said in an e-mailed statement.

After Zhang's release, police confiscated his identification card - needed to check into hotels and board planes - apparently to restrict his travel, the group said.

Officers who answered phones at Zhengzhou's two labor camps for men said they were not authorized to release any information about prisoners.

Zhang was sentenced in 2003 without trial as permitted by Chinese regulations on the charge of attempting to subvert China's government and political system.

Zhang had been active in documenting the history of the underground church movement and advocating unity among its various sects, which often compete for converts and bicker over religious dogma.

Up to 50 million Chinese are believed to worship in unofficial Protestant congregations, far more than the 10 million followers claimed by the official Protestant church, which is called the "Three-Self Patriotic Movement."

 

Xinjiang: Apparent Tolerance of religious belief, but with tight state controls

April 4th 2005 - China (PRC)

Religious believers in Ghulja (Yining in Chinese), a Xinjiang provincial town with Muslim, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox communities, do not on first glance currently appear to experience difficulties from the Chinese state. Authorised Christian and Muslim places of worship are frequently built at state expense, Forum 18 News Service has found. But the state tries to keep all religious organisations under complete control, and also, so Forum 18 has been told, limits the size of Catholic and Muslim places of worship, as well as restricting the number of mosques. "I have land and the money to build a mosque, but the authorities think it inexpedient to open a religious building in the new housing districts," Abdu Raheman, Muslim owner of Ghulja's largest honey-producing company, complained to Forum 18. Unregistered Chinese and Uighur Protestant communities do exist, but they mainly have to operate in secret. Although Jehovah's Witnesses have been in Ghulja, as far as Forum 18 has been able to establish they have not set up a religious community.

Law and Religion News, http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=537

 

U.S. President George W.Bush said on Wednesday he would raise religious freedom in China on the last leg of his three-nation tour of Asia.

[LatelineNews: 2002-2-19]

The issue has been a major sticking point in U.S. ties with Beijing's atheist leadership.

Speaking after talks with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, Bush told a news conference he would continue a discussion he had with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on religion in Shanghai last year and urge Beijing to hold talks with the Vatican.

"In my last visit with President Jiang, I shared with him my faith. I talked to him in very personal terms about my Christian beliefs."

He said he told Jiang last October: "I would hope that he, as a president of a great nation, would understand the important role of religion in an individual's life."

"I will do so again. I will bring up ... that I would hope the government would honour the request of the Papal Nuncio to at least have dialogue about the bishops

that are interned there."

China and the Holy See have no diplomatic relations and China does not recognise the Pope. China's crackdown on religious groups not under state control has ensnared many clergy among millions of Chinese Catholics who profess loyalty to the Pope.

Asked by a reporter whether he would meet Chinese political dissidents, Bush said he was uncertain about his itinerary. Reuters

 

Bible smuggler back in Hong Kong

Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 15:56 GMT

A Hong Kong businessman who was sentenced to two years in prison for smuggling thousands of bibles into China has been allowed to return to Hong Kong.

Li Guangqiang, was released from prison on Saturday.

The official Chinese news agency Xinhua said that the decision to release him was made on health grounds ?

Mr Li is suffering from hepatitis B - and that he would remain under the surveillance of the authorities.

Mr Li was arrested last May and accused of spreading an evil cult, a charge which can carry the death penalty in

China.

But last month, the charges were downgraded to carrying out illegal business activities.

US President Bush, who is to visit China later this month, had expressed concern about Mr Li's case.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

 

China accused of crackdown on Christians

By Joe McDonald

Feb. 11, 2002 | BEIJING (AP) --

Chinese authorities have killed 129 people and arrested nearly 24,000 in a crackdown on Christian churches that operate outside government control, a group of Chinese religious activists said Monday.

In a report released in New York, the Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China published what it said were official documents outlining a campaign that includes torture to stamp out independent worship.

The report accused senior Chinese leaders of approving the violence.

The accusations come at a sensitive time for China, a week before President Bush makes his first official visit to Beijing. A Hong Kong businessman imprisoned for smuggling Bibles to a banned Church was released this weekend after Bush expressed concern about him.

China's communist government allows only state-monitored

worship. It is struggling to rein in new religious movements that have attracted millions of followers in recent years.

The most prominent target has been the Falun Gong spirituel movement, banned in 1999 as a threat to public safety and communist rule. But other targeted groups span the spectrum from Roman Catholics to Buddhists to newer organizations with unorthodox views.

"The level of persecution aimed against unregistered Christians in China is high," said the report. "The persecution against underground Christians has escalated and originates at the highest central levels of the Chinese government."

The committee is run by Chinese Christians living abroad. Robin Munro, a British human rights researcher who has no connection to the committee, said he reviewed the documents that it gathered and believed they were genuine. He said it was the biggest quantity of internal Chinese government documents that he had seen assembled by one group.

"It paints a pretty frightening picture of the Chinese security authorities' attempt to suppress a wide range of spiritual groups," Munro said by telephone from London.

Calls seeking comment from China's Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Public Security and the official Roman Catholic and Protestant organizations weren't answered Monday. Most government offices were closed on the eve of the Chinese New Year.

Estimates by foreign religious scholars of the number of

underground, or house, church members run as high as 60 million.The official Christian churches have about 15 million followers.

The 141-page report released Monday cites documents that it said were supplied by activists in China and officials who oppose the crackdown.

They include a report that says the United States and Taiwan are using Falun Gong and other religious groups to undermine China's stability.

In addition, researchers investigated house churches in 20 provinces and found that 129 people had been killed, 23,686 arrested and 4,014 sentenced to re-education, according to the report. It didn't say how most of the deaths were alleged to have taken place or how the research was carried out.

The report accused Chinese authorities of using criminal charges against religious leaders to avoid criticism about damaging freedom of worship.

It noted the case of Gong Shengliang, founder of the banned South China Church. Gong was sentenced to death in December on charges of rape and using a cult to undermine the law, according to members of his church and human rights monitors.

According to the report, 63 other South China Church leaders have been detained and some sentenced to up to seven years in prison. It said one was missing and may have been killed.

The report cited statements by followers of other groups who said they suffered rape, beatings, electric shocks and other abuse.

The group claimed to have obtained documents showing that the harsh tactics were approved by senior leaders including Vice President Hu Jintao, who is expected to succeed President Jiang Zemin as China's next leader.

 

China Detains 47 Christians As Bush Urges Freedom of Worship

BEIJING, Feb 22, 2002 -- (dpa) China detained 47 Christians at a church meeting in suburban Beijing on Thursday, a Hong Kong rigottes group said on Friday, as U.S. President George W. Bush ended his visit to China with a call for freedom of worship in China.

Some 70 police raided the meeting of Christians from from five areas of northern China, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

Police charged the group with holding an illegal gathering, but released 55 of them with a caution on Friday, the center said.

Changping district police body-searched the Christians, confiscatoire their Bibles, and did not allow them to drink or go to the toilet, it said.

One 70-year-old man needed emergency treatment after suffering a recurrence of heart problems while in detention.

Bush urged China to allow freer worship and promote democratic reform, as he addressed students at one of the country's top universities on Friday.

"My prayer is that all persecution will end, so that all in China are free to gather and worship as they wish," he said.

"Regardless of where or how these believers worship, they are no threat to public order; in fact they make good citizens."

On Thursday, at a joint press conference after talks with Bush, Chinese President Jiang Zemin defended China's religious freedom and said that anyone imprisoned must have broken the law.

"Whatever religion people believe in, they have to uphold the law," he said.

Bush urged Jiang to hold dialogue with the Dalai Lama and the Vatican.

China only allows state-supervised religious groups.

Earlier this month Amnesty International highlighted the case of five leaders of the banned South China Church, who face execution after they were sentenced to death for crimes including subversion, rape and causing serious injury. All five denied the charges.

 

Scholars Discuss Evils of Canonized Missionaries in Beijing

BEIJING, Oct 5, 2000 -- (BBC Monitoring) Xinhua (New China News Agency)

Over 20 Chinese experts on history and religions held here today, exposing the crimes committed by canonized foreign missionaries and their followers.

Scholars listed a number of facts to illustrate that in modern history Catholic missionaries' activities were closely linked with foreign forces' invasion of China.

Prof Dai Yi said, "lots of foreign missionaries followed the warships of foreign aggressors to China in and after the Opium War [1840-1842], and actually foreign aggression and missionaries activities are combined into one. That is, missionaries' activities were an integral part of invasion, missionaries acted as guides and tools for foreign aggressors and in return, aggressors paved the way for the missionaries' activities."

Some participants elaborated on the historic background and inner causes of "religious cases" in history, stressing that it is the foreign missionaries that should answer for the consequences because their monstrous evils exasperated the Chinese people and eventually fused the outburst of the Yihetuan (known as Boxers) Movement [referring to the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901), an anti-foreign uprising, when the Boxers killed Western missionaries, their families and

Chinese converts].

Participants pointed out that foreign missionaries executed in certain "religious cases", such as Auguste Chapdelaine, Franciscus de Capillas and Albericus Crescitelli, had only themselves to blame for still being hated by people today, because they had stopped no evil. The Holy See, disregarding the strong opposition from the Chinese people, "canonized" these infamous missionaries, which reveals the Vatican's vicious intention to intervene in China's internal affairs through religious activities, the scholars said, pointing out that the canonization tramples on the sovereignty of the Chinese Catholic Church, as well as a severe provocation to the 1.2 billion Chinese people.

The scholars all voiced their protest over the perverse and vicious deeds of the Vatican, saying that the present China

is strong enough to protect its national security and national dignity and any attempt to distort history and humiliate the Chinese people is doomed to failure. According to the sponsors of the symposium, the participants are professors and researchers from the People's University of China, the Beijing University, the Beijing Normal University, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and other

academic institutes, who specialize in history or religion.

 

China Asks Hong Kong Church to Keep Low Profile over

Canonizations

HONG KONG, Oct 4, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) China has told the Hong Kong Catholic Church to avoid huge celebrations

to mark the Vatican's canonization of 120 Chinese missionary martyrs, a report said Wednesday.

But the request from the Beijing officials here to keep a low profile over the canonizations has left the leaders of the

territory's Catholic Church baffled, Bishop Joseph Zen Zekiun said quoted by the independent Chinese-language Ming Pao. "How do you measure 'high' and 'low" profile? I think we have no political motive in celebrating what is an important

religious affair," said Zen, deputy to Cardinal John Baptist

Wu Cheng-chung.

The request was made by the official from Beijing's liaison office in the territory at a meeting on September 18 with the

Hong Kong diocese which was not attended by Bishop Zen. "We don't have to listen to him ... There is no problem of

religious freedom in Hong Kong," he said, adding that "from Hong Kong's point of view, he was seemingly trying to

interfere, which may be serious."

Bishop Zen said the mainland authorities did not like the Hong Kong diocese to have contact with their mainland

counterparts and the slightest communication would attract a warning from the liaison office.

The church in mainland China however is strictly controlled, and Beijing broke off ties with the Holy See in 1958. The

official Catholic Church in China does not recognize the pope and has about four million followers.

 

China Meddles with Hong Kong Catholic Church, Cleric Says

HONG KONG, Oct 4, 2000 -- (Reuters) A leader of Hong Kong's Catholic Church has accused Beijing of meddling with

religious freedoms in the territory, one of the most serious accusations against China since it took back the former

British colony in 1997.

Bishop Joseph Zen, in an article he contributed to Hong Kong's Ming Pao daily newspaper, said Beijing had tried to interfere with local church celebrations of the Vatican's recent canonization of 120 Roman Catholic martyrs. "The Liaison Office urged the Hong Kong diocese to handle the canonization in a low-key manner," wrote Zen, who is deputy

to local Catholic leader Cardinal John Baptist Wu. The celebrations went ahead in Hong Kong churches over the weekend. Religious freedom is widely seen as a key indicator of Beijing's promise to leave Hong Kong's internal affairs untouched for 50 years following the 1997 handover from Britain.

The Chinese government has been vitriolic in its condemnation of the Vatican for canonizing 87 Chinese and 33 missionaries

on Sunday, saying the act glorified a century of Western imperialism in China.

Beijing has also taken offence at the timing of the

canonizations, which coincided with the 51st anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Zen hit out at what he termed Beijing's "violent suppression" of both the overt and underground churches on mainland China recently. "What hurts the feelings of countless Chinese citizens and peace-loving people all over the world is the violent suppression by central authorities of churches in the country," he wrote. "It leads one to recall some of the campaigns in the early

years of the People's Republic of China, even the Cultural Revolution," Zen said, referring to Mao Zedong's campaign of political persecution from 1966 to 1976.

Zen said the Liaison Office had tried to dissuade him from

communicating with his counterparts across the border in

China after he spoke briefly with a Catholic leader on the mainland.

 

Pope Apologizes To China Over Missionary Errors

VATICAN CITY, Oct 3, 2000 -- (Reuters) Pope John Paul has

extended an olive branch to China, which is angry at the canonization of martyrs it calls "evil-doing sinners", by apologizing for any errors committed by Western missionaries in colonial times.

At an audience on Monday for pilgrims who came to Rome for Sunday's 120 canonizations, the Pope said the Church was not passing a positive judgment on colonial times nor on the behavior of some governments towards China in the past.

He said criticism of missionary activity in colonial times was often the result of "a partial and non-objective reading of history which sees only limitations and errors..."

He added: "If there were any (errors) - and is man ever free of defects? - we ask forgiveness."

The Pope offered his apology as an irate Beijing kept up attacks. The Chinese government exploded in anger at the

weekend when the Pope made saints of 87 Chinese Roman Catholics and 33 missionaries who were killed in China between 1648 and 1930.

The canonizations were even harder for Beijing to swallow because the ceremony took place on the 51st anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. The Vatican said the ceremony was held on October 1 because it was the feast of St Teresa of Lisieux, patroness of missions.

In his homily on Sunday the Pope said the canonizations were an attempt to honor all Chinese people.

On Sunday night Beijing fired the latest salvo in its war of words by providing what it said were details about two of the

new saints.

A spokesman for China's State Administration of Religious Affairs cited examples of "monstrous crimes" committed by two of the new saints against the Chinese people, including one who he said slept with all the brides of his followers.

Alberto Crescitelli, an Italian missionary killed in 1900, "was notorious for taking the 'right to the first night' of

each bride under his diocese", Xinhua news agency quoted the spokesman as saying.

A second missionary, Auguste Chapdelaine of France, who was executed in 1856, instigated the second Opium War and the

burning of the imperial Summer Palace in 1860 after he was punished for felonies, the spokesman said. "Did they represent God's 'true love' to the Chinese people like the Vatican said?" asked the spokesman.

The Vatican says the martyrs were killed because they were loyal to their Christian faith. China says most were traitors executed for breaking laws when colonial forces invaded China during the 1839-42 Opium War, and during the 1898-1900 Boxer Uprising.