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Religions Update

March 2022 Updates

RELIGIONS OF CHINA UPDATES

March 2022

 

1 Update

 

1. Can China’s New Regulations Really Stop Evangelism on the Internet?

 

3rd March 2022

 

CT - Christianity Today

While some church leaders are concerned that online religion restrictions may scare off Christians, others hope Chinese believers will continue to sow the digital mission field.

By: SEAN CHENG

 

China’s new internet regulations went into effect March 1, laying out broad restrictions on religious communication, teaching, and evangelism.

The new rules put into writing unofficial penalties that some Christians already faced for their online activity, so Chinese believers aren’t sure how the rules will be implemented and how much it could hamper missions.

The regulations were announced at the end of last year by China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) and allow only religious groups with government approval to share information on the internet. According to the new Measures on the Administration of Internet Religious Information Services:

Organizations and individuals must not proselytize online and must not carry out religious education or training, publish preaching, or repost or link to related content; must not organize the carrying out of religious activities online; and must not broadcast religious rites … through means such as text, images, audio, or video either live or in recordings.

On February 28, the Chinese government issued a press release answering questions about the new regulation, stating the government “will have close and thorough cooperation to ensure the implementation of the measures.”

How will the implementation of these new measures affect the use of the internet for evangelism and mission by Chinese Christians? Will Christians in China no longer be able to do anything online? As the new measures come into force during the ongoing pandemic, where will the internet mission of Chinese churches in China and overseas now go?

CT Asia editor Sean Cheng interviewed several Chinese pastors and Christians (for security reasons, the names of Christians in China are pseudonyms), including:

  • Jerry An, new media mission pastor and Chinese director of Reframe Ministries in Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Eva Xu, member of an evangelical church in Los Angeles who has a master’s degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Shi Ming, pastor of a church in China who has an M.Div from an American seminary
  • Sean Lu, youth pastor of a church in China, now studying for a PhD in theology in the US
  • Zhu Yalun, pastor of a church in China who has an M.Div from a Korean seminary
  • Lynn Han, member of a Chinese church in Tokyo and host of a Christian WeChat group
  • Zhang Qiang, big data expert and veteran media worker who lives in China

CT: How do you think the regulations will affect Chinese Christians’ use of the internet for evangelism and mission?

Shi: First, these are just “measures,” which, in essence, authorize the government to carry out certain operations and can be used as a management tool. They may claim to have the force of law, but they do not have the same degree of binding power of a law.

Second, these measures are not much more than the practices that already existed (e.g., deleting posts, blocking social media accounts, public security authorities summoning violators for admonishment, or even suing them for the crime of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”). In other words, the measures merely fix on paper some exemplary practices that have already existed, in order to authorize and legitimize the government agents to do these things. This is not an overnight escalation of strict control.

Third, I don’t think this will have much impact on Chinese Christians’ use of the internet for evangelism and mission. Zoom meetings may be disrupted, and WeChat public accounts may be blocked, but these have always been the possibilities.

The only impact that is certain is that some Chinese Christians will stop their ministry out of fear. But Christians should not dance to the baton of such regulations in how we serve God and people. We should do everything we can to be faithful stewards of God’s resources until God takes them back.

Zhu: The impact remains to be seen, as it depends on the actual implementation. There has always been room for ambiguity in Chinese regulations, and the authorities will adjust the intensity and scope of implementation depending on the situation. And being restricted on WeChat may not be a bad thing. Too many Chinese today (including Christians) rely too much on WeChat, which has become the main means for many to obtain information, and that in itself is unhealthy. WeChat is full of misinformation and twisted value.

Han: The impact of the new regulations can already be seen on WeChat. Christians are afraid to forward Bible-related audio, pictures, and text, and many evangelical WeChat public accounts have been deleted. Words like JesusJehovah, and amen cannot be written out and have to be replaced with pinyin abbrevations (e.g., “JD” for Christ and “JDT” for Christian). Brothers and sisters in Japan have gradually moved to social media apps outside China (such as Line).

An: The intimidating effect of the regulation has already been seen, and many Christians have become more cautious in their communication on the internet or have used riddle-like codes for words that sound religious.

The government’s control over the speech of all sectors of society, not just Christianity, is unprecedented. And in spite of this high degree of control, the Xuzhou chained mother incident has created an unprecedented tsunami of public opinion, with many deleted posts gaining more attention and spreading more widely after being reposted outside China. This once again proves the subversive nature of the new media compared to the traditional communication model.

I am optimistic that after a short period of recession, the new regulations will inspire Chinese Christians to value internet ministry more and to use the new technologies more creatively and with a greater sense of mission.

Lu: The church must prepare for the worst and respond for the best. If, as the authorities say in the press release, the government will “ensure that the measures are implemented,” this is likely to have a big impact on the government’s goal of “de-religionizing the internet.” Of course, this is only relative because it is impossible to eradicate religious contents in an absolute sense.

If, as the authorities expect, cyberspace will no longer be a “special zone for religious activities” or an “enclave for religious ideas,” then the internet will become a veritable mission field. It will be a challenging mission and spiritual warfare, just like any offline mission field where people are hostile to the gospel. We must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to meet the challenges and to plough the frozen ground and sow.

CT: How can Chinese Christians continue online ministry after March 1? What kind of adjustments will they need to make?

Xu: Actually, Bible study meetings, theology lectures, and even online worship can still be done using Zoom. The only difference is that in the past the Zoom login information was usually posted in the WeChat groups, but now we are more concerned about security, so we use other methods to notify participants.

A few adjustments are still needed, such as avoiding the use of sensitive words that can easily trigger censorship. Christians are called to be both innocent as doves and shrewd as snakes (Matt. 10:16). When WeChat doesn’t work, more phone calls can be made to reach out to the seekers, and home visits can be a better option when the pandemic subsides.

Shi: I don’t think we need to make many adjustments because we are not suddenly in a “bitter winter” of the internet. We should continue to do what we have been doing until we are blocked, removed, or the tools are no longer available.

I want to say to Chinese Christians overseas that you are in a special position. You have to use software programs, platforms, or resources from China, but you are not bound or governed by the laws of China.

And these software programs, platforms, and resources have a desire to enter the global market. I think God has given you a special status for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14) to sue or protest these software and platforms in your own country for their infringements on freedom of speech, to reduce their influence and market share in the diaspora Chinese communities. Although this is not enough to change many things, perhaps God can use your present status to make an impact through such actions.

Zhu: I think what Chinese Christians need most now is to learn to circumvent the GFW (Great Firewall) using VPN and reduce our dependence on WeChat.

Break out of the wall, and the truth will set us free, and things will be much easier in the future: Churches or organizations that can afford it can set up their websites on off-GFW servers; Christian public accounts can move their platforms to uncensored social media (such as Telegram); and Christian individuals can also use social media outside the GFW. Telegram is highly recommended. After the past few years of trial and error, we think it is a very good one-stop platform that can completely replace WeChat in terms of functionality.

Lu: The fact that this unjust law is coming into effect does not mean that the Chinese church should retreat from cyberspace altogether or silence itself. Both individual believers and the church community need more courage, wisdom, and creativity from God to identify and seize new opportunities.

Churches and missions need to equip and send well-trained “internet missionaries” into this new mission field and spiritual battlefield in a more targeted and strategic manner. At the same time, we need to create the “new wineskins” of symbols, language, metaphors, and stories to carry the “old wine” of the gospel (Mark 2:22) in the face of an increasingly narrow public space and a rapidly changing online culture.

The Chinese church needs to create our own Narnia and Lord of the Rings by our own C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. (For example, can Chinese Christian writers create literary works based on Chinese mythology that do not have Christian “sensitive words” but are creative and spiritually profound in carrying the gospel message?)

An: From a personal perspective, tighter controls may prompt us to live out our faith not just by talking about it, but by living it out. We as individuals sharing the gospel on new media should pay more attention to relationship building and whether what we share in our circle of social media friends has the fruit of the Spirit and can exude the aroma of Christ.

Organizations and churches need to adjust their strategies to respond (for examples, transitioning to platforms outside the GFW or sharing the gospel with more creativity). In the “bitter winter,” everything is still growing, and it is also a season for us internet missionaries to work hard and wait patiently.

Zhang: Internet mission is a window into the converging interactions of technology and culture opened in the first two decades of the 21st century with globalization. Twenty years later, the world is not more tolerant but more polarized, not more united but more divided because of the internet connections.

The gospel can work through economic, demographic, technological, political, legal, and educational changes; only the effects may not be immediately apparent. The seeds sown in the past 20 years of internet mission will grow to be visible in the next 20 years. We need to pay attention to the changing seasons of people, cultures, and hearts.

This new season of authentic, community-focused, local, and deeper human engagement needs the truth of life to be truly understood and lived out by the believers, not just spoken with keyboards and screens.

CT: What have been the challenges and opportunities for online ministry during the pandemic? What hope do you have for the future?

Xu: The biggest challenge to evangelism from the pandemic is the reduction of face-to-face opportunities. There are fewer outreach activities, such as basketball or ping-pong, arts and crafts, etc. The seekers don’t always watch the videos or audio, or read the articles we forward, and they don’t always answer the phone.

But the pandemic has forced people stay at home, and now there’s time for people to be willing to read something more profound, or to consider questions about life, death, and eternity. Christian online seminars and books that discuss how to deal with personal relationships are currently more suitable to recommend to friends, family, and colleagues.

Han: The pandemic has restricted Christians from going out, but it has increased the time we all have to communicate on the internet. We currently have two to three hundred brothers and sisters living in Japan, China, the US, Canada, and Europe reading three chapters of the Bible a day together in a WeChat group.

Half of us have been faithfully punching in daily for two years already, and there is a regular weekly Bible study on Zoom. Having more time to study God’s Word in depth has been a great joy shared by all and has been very helpful in overcoming the anxiety caused by the pandemic.

Zhang: The pandemic brought enormous anxiety even to healthy people, not to mention those who already had depression. It also brought about a backlash against small-circle mentality and echo chambers. This also reminds us that internet missions need to “become flesh” and move from symbolic communication to experiential, real-life scenarios. Christians with mature spiritual lives can serve this generation through professional service in their own workplace, creating new opportunities to build relationships with people and preach the gospel of Christ.

An: The pandemic has forced all churches to go online, and internet ministry has received unprecedented attention. Many churches and Christians have begun to actively explore church development and internet ministry in the “new normal” of the post-pandemic era.

But there is also backward thinking, superficiality, jealousy, and self-boasting. In the past five years, we at Reframe Ministries have conducted extensive surveys and analysis of active Christian WeChat public accounts and found that Christian public accounts as a whole show a phenomenon of “bad money driving out good money,” with for-profit marketing accounts and fake news proliferating, and a general lack of public concern and the ability to engage in public dialogue.

During the past two US elections, many Christians’ social media contributed to the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories and lost their Christian witness. This shows that the Chinese church has long lacked a deep understanding of media and new media as well as profound and mature research of the church’s social engagement and public theology. We still have a lot to do to catch up.

Shi: Internet ministry needs to lead the targeted people to the local church, to real and personal connections. It can also lead to fantasy, deception, and self-gratification. An internet celebrity, writer, or host engaged in internet ministry is likely to over-exalt himself because of his interaction with his fans or listeners.

What he hears from his followers will reinforce his self-perception and eventually, although he still goes to church, his true identity will actually be on the internet. This is very dangerous and harmful to both himself and his followers.

I especially hope that those involved in online evangelism will view their endeavor properly and see it as a resource that God has given in this age, but not as a substitute for Bible reading, prayer, and participation in the local church.

Interviews and English translation by Sean Cheng

End

 

February 2022 Updates

RELIGIONS OF CHINA UPDATES

February 2022

 

3 Updates

 

1. China promotes new book on atheism targeting religions.

2. Hong Kong's religious freedom now firmly in Beijing's sights.

3. The Colloquium of Six Religious Leaders Lunar New Year message 2022.

 

 

1. 

China promotes new book on atheism targeting religions.

2nd February 2022

UCA News - www.ucanews.com

'The Principles of Scientific Atheism' defends 'the non-existence of God' and 'the harmful effect of religion'

UCA News reporter

 

 

'The Principles of Chinese Atheism' by Li Shen argues that Chinese culture has always been non-religious. (Photo: Bitter Winter)

 

China’s officially atheist government is promoting a new textbook on atheism in colleges and among Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cadres in order to target organized religions and strictly implement Marxist policies.

The Chinese-language book, The Principles of Scientific Atheism by author Li Shen, is part of a CCP campaign for a “full and faithful” execution of the decisions of its National Conference on Religious Affairs last December, reported Bitter Winter.

The book, which reportedly took six years to write, promotes President Xi Jinping’s theory that Chinese culture has been always non-religious and his insistence that Karl Marx’s views on religion should be thoroughly studied within the CCP.

During the December conference, Xi also instructed the CCP leadership to increase surveillance of online religious affairs and tighten control of religions to ensure national security.

Li Shen’s book includes an appendix on the ??“Main Theological Knowledge and Criticism of Religion” and four chapters titled “What is God,” “Proof of the Non-Existence of God,” “The Gods and Their Effects” and “The Communist Party’s Religious Theory and Religious Policy.”

Zhu Xiaoming, former secretary of the CCP Leadership Group of China Tibetology Research Center, wrote a preface for the book.

In the book, the author presents arguments offerng scientific explanations for “the non-existence of God” and “the harmful effect of religion.” It also argues that Marx and the CCP in China have definitively demonstrated the principles of atheism as described in Western and Chinese philosophy.

Author Li, 76, who earlier penned books including History of Chinese Science and History of Chinese Atheism , is known as an intellectual and advocate of state-sponsored atheism in China. He supports the CCP’s promotion of “Confucianism as a form of atheism.”

Li has worked at the Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and was the director of its Confucianism Research Office. He then was a professor in the department of philosophy at Shanghai Normal University and vice-chairman of the Chinese Atheism Society. He is also an academic committee member of the International Confucian Federation.

His new book aims to assist the CCP in achieving its long-term goal of ensuring Chinese universities shift from “neutral” study and education to active propaganda to promote atheism as advised by Marx, who famously said: “Religion is the opium of the people.”

Officially, communist China recognizes five organized religions — Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam. The state requires all religions and religious activities to be strictly controlled by official religious bodies and to abide by Chinese laws.

Religions and religious groups have faced increased repression since Xi Jinping became president in 2013. Under his rule, the CCP has adopted draconian polices and legislation to intensify crackdown on religions.

In 2018, the CCP enacted New Regulations on Religious Affairs that stipulate strong surveillance of religious organizations and penalties for clergy and laypeople for engaging in any activity the state deems illegal and unauthorized.

The state has also strongly promoted the strict implementation of the policy of Sinicization in all religious entities.

Sinicization is a political ideology that aims to impose strict rules on societies and institutions based on the core values of socialism, autonomy and supporting the leadership of the CCP.

___________________________________________________________________

2. 

Hong Kong's religious freedom now firmly in Beijing's sights.

2nd February 2022

UCA News - www.ucanews.com
 
Rights & Wrongs by: Benedict Rogers

We are witnessing the early-warning signs of a creeping Chinese Communist Party takeover of religion.

When Hong Kong’s freedoms started to be dismantled, especially after the imposition of the draconian national security law by Beijing in July 2020, I knew it was only a matter of time before religious freedom would come under increasing attack. When freedom itself unravels, religious freedom is inherently impacted.

But until recently the threat could be regarded as perhaps more subtle. While protesters, pro-democracy legislators, human rights campaigners, activists, journalists and lawyers were arrested and jailed, and civil society groups, trade unions and media outlets shut down, places of worship stayed open.

Even though many of those activists were people of faith, they were arrested or jailed instead for their acts of political thought more than religious conscience. Freedom of religion — or at least worship — appeared to be the last remaining liberty.

Now, however, it seems religion is increasingly in Beijing’s sights. Having driven demonstrators off the streets, locked up the democrats, shut down the independent media, corroded academic freedom, almost eliminated civil society space, neutered trade unionism and castrated the judiciary, religion — and especially the Catholic Church — is the one remaining institution and liberty left standing.

It revives echoes of the words of Martin Niemoller, the Lutheran pastor in Nazi Germany who famously wrote the poem that begins: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist.” The poem runs through the list of the Nazis’ targets and ends: “Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The alarm bells have been ringing for the past two years. When, in August 2020, Hong Kong Catholic Diocese effectively banned a public prayer campaign for the city inspired by an appeal by Cardinal Charles Bo from Myanmar, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, I was alarmed. When, soon after that, Cardinal John Tong Hon issued a pastoral letter to all clergy urging them to “watch your words” in homilies, I was appalled. And when HSBC froze the bank accounts of the Good Neighbour North District Church and its pastor, my friend Roy Chan, and the Hong Kong police then raided the church, I saw the storm clouds very much on the horizon.

Now, it looks as though the storm is about to break. Last week pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao published no less than four articles condemning Hong Kong’s Emeritus Bishop Cardinal Joseph Zen, a well-known and heroic champion of democracy, and other churches for their support of the democracy movement.

Beijing’s assaults on 90-year-old Cardinal Zen are nothing new. In 2019, I attended a private gathering of Catholic legislators in Fatima, Portugal, to which the cardinal and Hong Kong’s "father" of the democracy movement, devout Catholic Martin Lee, were also invited.

China’s embassy in Lisbon dispatched a delegation of a dozen or so diplomats to occupy the entire first floor of the hotel opposite ours and make multiple attempts to infiltrate our gathering. That the Chinese Communist Party regime was so spooked by these two Hong Kong pro-democracy octogenarians visiting a religious pilgrimage site with a group of Catholic legislators said a lot about Beijing’s paranoia and its fear of religion.

But what is new is that pro-Beijing media is now openly talking about restrictions on religion in Hong Kong. According to Ta Kung Pao, Lawrence Ma, the executive director of the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, has called on the Hong Kong government to abrogate an old colonial law, the Chinese Temple Ordinance, to reapply it to all religions. In other words, to impose new administrative measures on religion.

Ma went further in an unprovoked attack, arguing "Western" religions are incompatible with Chinese culture, claiming — falsely — that they “encourage us to forget our ancestors.” What does he think of Catholic veneration of saints, then, may I ask? Has he not read the fifth commandment — “honor your father and mother”?

Perhaps even more chilling than Ma’s interventions are the remarks by former Anglican provincial secretary-general Peter Koon, recently elected to Beijing’s proxy, puppet rubber-stamp legislature in Hong Kong.

Koon, who has metamorphosized from Anglican cleric into Chinese Communist Party apparatchik, placing his sickle and star alongside his soiled dog collar, backs the imposition of a revised Chinese Temple Ordinance, attacking Christians who supported the 2019 protests as people who had “over-reliance on Western ideologies.” A co-opted religious leader, what Lenin would have called a “useful idiot,” Koon is perhaps — God help us — the embryo of the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s retired Anglican Archbishop Peter Kwong was a fully signed-up supporter of Beijing’s national security law, and an enthusiastic member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. His successor, Archbishop Andrew Chan, is a little less enthusiastic, thank God.

If the old Chinese Temple Ordinance needs reform to bring it up to date, and to protect freedom of religion or belief for everyone, everywhere, all the time, of all faiths and none, then I would totally support that.

For almost all my adult life I have fought for the rights of people of all faiths and none. I have defended Muslims in Myanmar, Ahmadiyyah Muslims and atheists in Indonesia, Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims in China and Christians throughout the world. I have collaborated with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Bahais, atheists, humanists and Christians of differing traditions to promote freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief for all. So, if that was the issue, my track record is clear and I am signed up.

But I fear that’s not what is at play here. I fear that we are witnessing the early-warning signs of a creeping Chinese Communist Party takeover of control of religion. A subtle absorption of Hong Kong’s religious institutions into the Beijing-controlled, United Front Work Department-directed operations: the Three-Self Patriotic Movement for the Protestants, the Catholic Patriotic Association for the Catholics, and a slow strangulation of religious freedom.

Hong Kong’s new bishop offers one fragile flicker of hope. He was not Beijing’s choice, although nor is he identified with the pro-democracy movement in the way that Cardinal Zen and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha are. But in all his public pronouncements since his appointment was confirmed — at his initial press conference, at his ordination and in his first, recent interview — Bishop Stephen Chow has shown that even if he is having to navigate his course carefully, he holds firm to principles of human dignity and freedom of conscience.

The articles in Ta Kung Pao should not be ignored. When Beijing wants to signal its intentions, it has a habit of firing a warning shot via its media outlets first. The world’s religious freedom monitors — the United States’ newly confirmed ambassador-at-large for international freedom Rashad Hussain, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Ambassador Hussain’s predecessor Sam Brownback, the United Kingdom prime minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief Fiona Bruce MP and the United Nations special rapporteur for freedom of religion or belief Ahmed Shaheed — should pay close attention to the dismantling of religious freedom in Hong Kong, as should the Vatican.

Hong Kong’s freedoms have already been defenestrated. But we must not simply take it for granted and accept it as given. If places of worship are reined in, freedom of thought, conscience and religion are curtailed, homilies are censored, clergy are jailed or disappeared or simply silenced, and if Hong Kong’s religious institutions are slowly absorbed into the CCP’s institutions, and if truth — or the pursuit of truth — is then shrouded in lies, we must shout it from the rooftops.

* Benedict Rogers is a human rights activist and writer. He is the co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, senior analyst for East Asia at the international human rights organisation CSW, co-founder and deputy chair of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, a member of the advisory group of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) and a board member of the Stop Uyghur Genocide Campaign. He is the author of six books, and his faith journey is told in his book “From Burma to Rome: A Journey into the Catholic Church” (Gracewing, 2015). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

_______________________________________________________________

 

3. 

The Colloquium of Six Religious Leaders Lunar New Year message 2022.

 

 

Sunday Examiner - Hong Kong
http://www.examiner.org.hk/

 

POSTED INHONG KONG

 

The Colloquium of Six Religious Leaders Lunar New Year message 2022

 31/01/2022

The Chinese Year of the Tiger will prosper as if a tiger with wings, 
The dragon flies in the sky over the Chinese soil, 
The flying dragon and leaping tiger bring joy to all the people on earth,
Spring turns up amid the birds singing and flower blooming in fragrant air. 

With the New Year Ren Yin taking over the Old Year Xin Chou and the Year of the Tiger succeeding the outgoing Year of the Ox, all of us from the Colloquium of Six Religious Leaders of Hong Kong, on this new spring’s auspicious day of the Year of the Tiger, cordially convey our prayers and blessings to the citizens of Hong Kong: 

We pray that auspiciousness and prosperity be with our Motherland; we pray that Hong Kong citizens do better than before with good health and longevity; we pray that the devastating pandemic will vanish soon and people of Hong Kong stay safe and healthy. We hope that the government and the people work hand in hand to follow medical experts’ advice to fight the virus and protect one another. 

This year is the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the Motherland. We expect, with ample experience and proven record of overcoming difficult times, the Hong Kong Government would make full use of the provisions of “One Country, Two Systems” to develop the city’s economy and resolve difficulties affecting citizens’ livelihood. We also expect the new Legislative Council to focus on people’s well-being, create a harmonious society and guide people to collaborate with and to respect one another. We expect them to instil in people the desire to make their best endeavour to equip themselves so as to establish a harmonious, safe, propitious, just, benevolent, free, democratic and lawful society.

The purpose of our religious bodies is to clean and purify the human mind, be enthusiastic in public welfare and be concerned about the disadvantaged groups. We provide people with medical services, education and social welfare, etc. We will continue to adhere to the spirit of “seeking common grounds while preserving plurality and working together in harmony and unity.” We will fully exert our religious values, promote harmony and co-existence in society, enhance spiritual life and build-up of the soul. We will commit to developing the spirit of mercy, caring, forgiveness and tolerance in our religions. We will unite, walk hand in hand and work together to create a society of friendship, support, mutual respect and peace. 

We, the Six Religious colleagues, would like to take this auspicious festive spring to bless all people in Hong Kong be filled with auspiciousness in the Year of the Tiger. That the pandemic will vanish, that everyone will live in peace and comfort and that every family stays safe and healthy. We also bless the World with peace and happiness, that our Motherland continues to thrive and prosper and that Hong Kong be blessed with long-lasting stability and peace.

End

 

 

January 2022 Updates

RELIGIONS OF CHINA UPDATES

January 2022

 

2 Updates

 

1. US-China showdown over religion may intensify'

2. Christmas Music in Chinese.

 

 

1. 

US-China showdown over religion may intensify'

3rd Januarry 2022

UCA News - www.ucanews.com

US-China showdown over religion may intensify

The global superpowers are both using religion but for different purposes

By:Ben Joseph

In the US-China rivalry that involves a complex mix of diplomacy, trade wars and sanctions, religion has come under increased pressure after the communist regime banned online propagation of religion by foreign nationals, purportedly to make religion more Chinese-oriented.

On Dec. 22, China finally put the last nail in the coffin of modern ways of religious propagation by issuing a new norm that proscribes all foreign institutions and individuals from spreading religious content online. Expected of an undemocratic government, China cited national security interests for enacting the new law.

The new rules, titled Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information Services, were made two weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping attended a national religious work conference.

In his address on Dec. 4, Xi stressed making religions Chinese in orientation and developing them in the Chinese context. The regulations are the first of their kind to monitor online religious affairs.

On Dec. 21, China barred the entry of four members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) following US sanctions against human rights abuses in Xinjiang province where detention camps are being operated by China to house Uyghur Muslims.

It all started with former US president Donald Trump declaring on his last day in office on Jan. 20, 2021, that China was committing crimes against humanity and genocide against Uyghur Muslims by curtailing their religious freedom and putting them into detention camps.

Thus, the US became the first country to apply sanctions against China. The relations further nosedived after Trump left the Oval Office. Beijing retaliated by imposing counter-sanctions on 28 of his administration’s former officials, including Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state.

Besides the alleged arbitrary detention of more than one million Uyghurs in Xinjiang, forced sterilizations and a crackdown on religious freedom were cited by Joe Biden, the new Catholic president, when he announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics to be held next month.

USCIRF, a federal entity that evaluates policies for countries where religious freedom is facing threats and troubles, planned to visit China to get first-hand information.

But on Dec. 21, Zhao Lijian, a Chinese government spokesman, said the chair, vice-chair and two commissioners of USCIRF were banned from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. Their assets in China are frozen and institutions and citizens are forbidden to deal with them, he added.

USCIRF has been vocal in its criticism of China, especially the communist regime’s policies on religious freedom. When the diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games in Beijing was announced, Nury Turkel, vice-chair of USCIRF, reacted by saying that “… a genocidal regime should not have been granted the privilege to host the Olympics in the first place.”

China’s “systematic and egregious violations of religious freedom” against the Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians and Falun Gong practitioners “betray the Olympic spirit,” Turkel observed.

Religious freedom in China was also taken up by the UN, which cited a report by London-based lawyers on genocide and religious freedom abuses against the Uyghur minority.

The report, compiled at the request of the exiled World Uyghur Congress, “is deeply disturbing” in ts claims about the treatment of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, Rupert Colville, a UN rights office spokesman, said while clarifying that the UN had yet to verify the report.

According to the panel, China’s rulers want to destroy the religious identity of Uyghur Muslims “through population control measures and as such had committed genocide.”

Beijing dismissed the report, saying the World Uyghur Congress had “paid for liars” in an attempt “to concoct a political tool to smear China.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has sought to visit Xinjiang for years to verify the prosecution of Uyghur Muslims on religious grounds, but the spokesman said so far no such visit had been made possible by the Chinese government.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang and says its policies and detention camps are meant for vocational training and to curb Islamic extremism.

Both China and the US are using religion but for different purposes.

___________________________________________________________________

2. 

Christmas Music in Chinese.

10th December 2021

 

China Source Blog

Christmas Music in Chinese

 

By Joann Pittman ·  Cross-cultural

 

 

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs.

Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul (MN), and Chinese Culture and Communication at Wheaton College (IL) and Taylor University (IN).

Joann has a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul (MN), and an MA in teaching from the University of St. Thomas (MN).

She is the author of Survival Chinese Lessons and The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China.

Her personal blog, Outside-In can be found at joannpittman.com, where she writes on China, Minnesota, traveling, and issues related to "living well where you don't belong."

You can find her on Twitter @jkpittman.com and on Facebook at @authorjoannpittman.

She makes her home in New Brighton, Minnesota.

 

Even though China is a thoroughly secular country, and thus does not celebrate Christmas (it’s a regular workday), over the years Christmas as a commercial festival has become quite popular. Shops are festooned with Christmas decorations, Santa hats abound, and Christmas music wafts through the malls.

 

The one thing missing, of course, is any sign of baby Jesus, which is partly due to political sensitivities and partly because the Chinese are borrowing their Christmas celebrations mainly from Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.  

 

Not surprisingly, beyond the consumer trappings, people don’t seem to have a clue what they’re celebrating or why.  A few years back I was doing some last minute shopping in a Beijing department store on Christmas Eve, or what is sometimes referred to as “The Silent Night.”  Standing next to me at a counter were two young men, also making some purchases.  “Joy to the World” was playing in the background as I overheard one man say to the other:  “I don’t even know what Christmas is.  All I know is that if I don’t buy my wife a present, she’ll be angry with me.”

 

Things have tightened in recent years, and the celebrations scaled back; however, the music of Christmas remains popular.

 

If you’d like to get into the Christmas spirit in Chinese, check out the blog SinoSplice for a selection of mp3 files of Christmas songs in Chinese that you can stream or download.

 

In addition to being great language learning tools, it’s a fun playlist to use to help us get into the Christmas spirit!

 

Merry Christmas or should I say.

 

End

 

 

 

November 2021 Update

RELIGIONS OF CHINA UPDATES

November 2021

 

1 Update

 

1. China is removing domes from mosques as part of a push to make them more 'Chinese'

24th October 2021

NPR - USA

China is removing domes from mosques as part of a push to make them more 'Chinese'

By: EMILY FENG

XINING, China — The Dongguan Mosque has adopted some very different looks in its nearly 700 years in China's northwestern city of Xining. Built in the style of a Chinese imperial palace, with tiled roofs and no domes, and adorned with Buddhist symbols, the mosque was nearly destroyed by neglect during political tumult in the early 20th century. In the 1990s, authorities replaced the original ceramic tiles on the roof and minarets with green domes.

This year, provincial authorities lopped off those domes.

"The government says they want us to 'sinify' our mosques, so they look more like Beijing's Tiananmen Square," says Ali, a Muslim farmer selling pomegranates outside the mosque. He requested that NPR use only his first name because residents have been ordered not to speak about the dome removals. "I think the mosque looks good either way, but what say do we have anyways?"

China is removing the domes and minarets from thousands of mosques across the country. Authorities say the domes are evidence of foreign religious influence and are taking down overtly Islamic architecture as part of a push to sinicize historically Muslim ethnic groups — to make them more traditionally Chinese.

The campaign comes amid rising Islamophobia in China and growing religious restrictions, touching off a discussion across the country among scholars, ethnic policy regulators and historically Muslim Chinese communities about what exactly should be considered "Chinese" to begin with.

* China's approach to ethnic minorities has shifted to "sinicization" under Xi Jinping's rule

China's ethnic policy is directly modeled on the Soviet approach, classifying citizens into 55 distinct ethnic minority groups, each of which, in theory, is granted limited cultural autonomy within its territory. But experts say the Communist Party under Xi Jinping's rule has shifted to a new approach, one that favors integration and assimilation — a process dubbed "sinicization" in official speeches and documents.

"A very liberal or positive view of all this [sinicization] is just basically to compare it to, say, what's it like to become an American citizen? You accommodate and people adjust," says Dru Gladney, an expert on Islam in China at Pomona College.

After more than 1,300 years of living and intermarrying in China, Hui Muslims — who number about 10.5 million, less than 1% of China's population — have adjusted by becoming culturally and linguistically Chinese. They even made their version of Islam accessible to Confucians and Daoists — trying to show it as inherently Chinese and not a foreign influence — by adopting spiritual concepts and terms found in ancient Chinese philosophy to explain Islamic precepts.

Various Hui sects have also incorporated Chinese religious practices into their worship, such as burning incense at religious ceremonies. Hui communities in central Henan province are even known for their female-only and female-led mosques, believed to be a uniquely long tradition in China.

The problem from Chinese authorities' perspective, says Gladney, is that the Hui are not Chinese in the way sinicization proponents want: "When people make this one-way argument of sinicization, I think they're confusing that with Han-isization" — in other words, making Chinese Muslims more like China's Han ethnic majority.

Beijing has a much narrower understanding of what being "Chinese" means – adhering to Communist Party values, speaking only Mandarin Chinese and rejecting all foreign influence, say scholars.

"The Communists nowadays try to culturally rule China," says Ma Haiyun, an associate history professor at Frostburg University.

* Authorities began taking down mosque domes a few years ago in an effort to remove "Saudi and Arabic influence"

The streets of Xining city in China's Qinghai province are redolent with reminders of China's historically multiethnic and co-religious composition. Many people wear the white cap or scarf favored by Hui Muslims, and visitors are equally likely to hear Mandarin Chinese as the Tibetan spoken by about a fifth of Qinhai's population. Roughly one-sixth of the province's population belongs to ethnic groups China classifies as Muslim.

At the heart of the city's hustle and bustle is the Dongguan Mosque, Xining's largest. In restaurants that crowd the alleyways around the mosque, vendors hand-pull halal beef soup noodles. Carts piled with dates and almonds cluster under brick archways.

But missing are the big green domes that once crowned its minarets and prayer hall. Under the slogan of "removing Saudi and Arabic influence," authorities have torn down the domes from most mosques across China's northwest as part of a national removal campaign that began in earnest in 2018.

Xi first called for sinicization in 2016. In August, he gave a speech saying religious and ethnic groups should "hold high the banner of Chinese unity" — meaning they should put Chinese culture ahead of ethnic differences.

The dome removal campaign has met with limited public resistance. Xining residents say the Dongguan Mosque's imam and director were briefly detained and forced to sign in favor of it. Less than a mile away, Xining's marble Nanguan Mosque is also being prepped for dome removal. A shell of bamboo scaffolding encases its white dome.

"The local residents are spreading rumors," said a man who declined to identify himself and tried to prevent NPR from taking pictures outside the mosque. Despite the removal of the Dongguan Mosque's domes, he insists they are still in place. "Dongguan's and Nanguan's domes are preserved. Some might have been taken down for renovation."

In other parts of China, sinicization has allowed the state to justify the confiscation of mosque assets, the imprisonment of imams and the closure of religious institutions over the last two years.

It has also buttressed simultaneous restrictions on the use of non-Chinese languages, such as Tibetan or Uyghur. In the province of Inner Mongolia, peaceful mass protests broke out last September but were quickly stifled after schools reduced the time devoted to teaching the Mongolian language in favor of Mandarin Chinese.

China's efforts at cultural control are most heavy-handed in the western region of Xinjiang, where authorities detained hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uyghurs in camps Beijing says are schools that teach the Chinese language and Chinese communist theory. The state has also damaged or outright demolished thousands of Xinjiang mosques and religious sites.

* Hui Muslims continue to adapt

The dome removal at Xining's Dongguan Mosque has split China's already fractious Muslim community, which is prone to sectarian divisions, according to Frostburg's Ma, who was born in Xining and was raised around the mosque.

"If you remodel this mosque and create some chaos [among the Muslim community]. You already have different sects starting to rise in Xining ... I think the government is trying to divide and rule," says Ma.

The state itself is also divided over what Chinese mosques should look like.

In the 1990s, as China opened up politically, local leaders encouraged Persian Gulf states such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to invest money into massive infrastructure projects aimed at internationalizing the once-closed Communist country. More Chinese Muslim students were able to study abroad in Middle Eastern countries, especially in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and they brought back new ideas about Islamic architecture.

As part of these modernization efforts, authorities also tore down centuries-old Chinese-style mosque roofs— including the ones which graced the Dongguan Mosque — and built Arabic-style domes.

In previous conversations Gladney had with local governments intent on adding domes to old Chinese mosques, "I was jumping up and down, saying, 'don't do it, don't do it,'" he says. "You can build your dome and your new mosque next door, but preserve what you have here."

The Hui Muslims, for the most part, have accommodated the ever-changing cultural pressures around them.

Yusuf, the Muslim owner of a store near the Dongguan Mosque selling Muslim head coverings and halal beauty products, says the Hui must continue to adapt, as they have for centuries, to survive. He requested that NPR only use one name because residents may face state retribution for speaking about religious affairs with foreign journalists.

"Everything changes from one era to another. During Chairman Mao's time, they tore down all our mosques. Then they built them up. Now they are tearing them down again! Just follow whatever political slogan the country is yelling at the time."

For the third time in under a century, the Dongguan Mosque is going through another makeover — and that's fine with Yusuf.

"To the average person, Chinese style, Arabic style... we don't care! Our faith does not exist in our buildings. It lies in our heart," he says, thumping his chest emphatically.

 

End

 

 

 

October 2021 Update

RELIGIONS OF CHINA UPDATES

October 2021

 

1 Update

 

1. China orders Christians to pray for communist martyrs.

 

6th September 2021

UCA News - www.ucanews.com

China orders Christians to pray for communist martyrs

Chinese Christians are banned from honoring their own martyrs and praying to them

UCA News reporter

Chinese authorities have asked Christians from state-approved Protestant churches to pray for communist soldiers who died in the war with imperial Japan.

While Chinese Christians are banned from honoring their own martyrs and praying to them, a new directive from the authorities says it is mandatory to pray for soldiers of the Red Army who died during the resistance war against Japanese occupation forces, Bitter Winter, a magazine on human rights and religious liberty, reported on Sept. 6.

The directive has been sent to all churches that are part of Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the state-controlled body of Protestant churches which enjoys legal recognition from the Chinese Communist Party.

Last week members of the Theological Seminary in Fujian were invited to attend a celebration to pay tribute to martyrs of what China calls the “People’s War of Resistance Against the Japanese Aggression.”

Prayers were held seeking the intercession of “Jesus, the King of Peace” for the “peaceful reunification” of China, Bitter Winter reported.

The comment on reunification was in reference to Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa, which Beijing considers to be a breakaway province and has threatened to annex militarily. Taiwan is an independent and democratic country but has never officially declared independence. It maintains diplomatic ties with 14 countries and the Vatican, with the US as one of its main allies.

Chinese authorities sent the following directive on prayers for martyrs to all Christian churches in each province, autonomous region or municipality directly under the central government:

“This year is the 76th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War. To respond positively to the initiative of the Chinese Religious Peace Council, a notice is hereby issued to the Christian churches in each province (or autonomous region or municipality directly under the central government), inviting local churches to organize peace prayer worship activities to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War around September 3, according to the actual situation,” it reads.

“Local churches and congregations may, according to the actual local situation, carry out relevant peace prayer activities in a small and decentralized form, in line with the local requirements for prevention and control of the new Covid epidemic, to further promote the fine tradition of patriotism and love of religion and to demonstrate the good image of peace-loving Christianity in China.”

Local churches have been asked to submit evidence of the relevant activities (text, video and photo materials) to the media ministry department of the China Christian Council by September 10.

Japan’s occupation forces surrendered in China in September 1945 after a bloody war with resistance forces that joined with nationalists, communists and international powers to fight Japan during World War II.

The nationalists, who played a major role in the resistance, were later defeated and driven away by the communists, who came to power in 1949 after the Chinese Civil War. Since then, China has been eulogizing the soldiers of the communist Red Army while largely minimizing the role of the nationalists.

Communist China recognizes the legal entity of five religions — Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Taoism. However, for decades, authorities have strictly controlled official religious groups and persecuted those adhering allegiance to unrecognized or unregistered groups.

Global watchdogs have criticized China’s repressive policies and actions against religious groups including Christians.

In January, US-based Christian group Open Doors published a World Watch List that listed China 17th among 50 countries where Christians face the most severe forms of persecution.

 

End

 

 

 

August 2021 Update

RELIGIONS OF CHINA UPDATES

August 2021

 

1 Update

 

 

1. China: Tibetan Monks Harshly Sentenced

 

6th July 2021

 

Human Rights Watch
China: Tibetan Monks Harshly Sentenced

Officials Pressured to Prosecute Perceived Dissent

(New York) – Chinese authorities in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) have prosecuted four monks who received up to 20 years in prison for dubious offenses, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The sentences reflect the increasing pressure on local officials to restrict online communications and punish peaceful expression as a security threat.

Download the full report in English
https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/media_2021/07/chinatibet0721_web.pdf

The 61-page report, “‘Prosecute Them with Awesome Power’: China’s Crackdown on Tengdro Monastery and Restrictions on Communications in Tibet,” details, for the first time, the government’s crackdown on Tibetan monks in the little-known Tengdro monastery. In September 2019, police in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, found private messages on a cell phone lost by Choegyal Wangpo, a Tibetan monk. Several messages had been exchanged with Tibetan monks living in Nepal, including records of donations after the 2015 Nepal earthquake. The police responded with a raid on the monastery that resulted in multiple arrests, a suicide, and, in 2020, a secret trial of four monks.

“The unprecedented sentences of the Tengdro monks reflect a ‘perfect storm’ in Tibet,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “The Chinese government’s assumption that Tibetan monks and nuns are potential subversives, the heightened border security, and increased restrictions on online communications and religious donations all combined to create a shocking miscarriage of justice.”

The four monks – Choegyal Wangpo, Lobsang Jinpa, Norbu Dondrup, and Ngawang Yeshe – received sentences of 20, 19, 17, and 5 years respectively, even though sending messages abroad or making humanitarian donations does not violate Chinese law.

Human Rights Watch drew on interviews with Tibetans outside China, official media, including social media, and exile media reports to examine the circumstances that led to the raid and the factors that could explain the extreme punishment meted out to the Tengdro monks.

In October 2020, shortly after the sentencing of the Tengdro monks, Human Rights Watch reported on the detention of two Tibetans for sending remittances to relatives in India. One of the Tibetans died from injuries inflicted in custody.

Since then, there have been several reports in Tibetan media outside China of meetings held by local officials both in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas to threaten residents against contacting relatives outside of China. The authorities have also detained and beaten Tibetan netizens for posts deemed by the authorities to “endanger national security.” The Tengdro monks case demonstrates the arbitrary and extreme manner in which restrictions on online communications are being enforced throughout Tibetan areas.

The monks imprisoned should be immediately released, and concerned governments and the United Nations should pressure the Chinese government to respect Tibetans’ human rights, Human Rights Watch said. These recommendations echo the June 2020 call by 50 UN human rights experts to establish a standing monitoring mechanism on China at the UN.

“The horrific treatment of the Tengdro monks points to the Chinese government’s pressure on officials in Tibet to find and punish cases of political subversion – even if the alleged subversion is a figment of their imagination,” Richardson said.

 

End

 

 

May 2021 Update

RELIGIONS OF CHINA UPDATES

May2021

 

2 Updates

 

1. Ramadan in China: Faithful dwindle under limits on religion.

2. Mosques disappear as China strives to ‘build a beautiful Xinjiang.

 

 

 

1. 

Ramadan in China: Faithful dwindle under limits on religion.

 

6th May 2021

By: KEN MORITSUGU AND DAKE KANG ASSOCIATED PRESS

KASHGAR, CHINA

Tursunjan Mamat, a practicing Muslim in western China’s Xinjiang region, said he's fasting for Ramadan but his daughters, ages 8 and 10, are not. Religious activity including fasting is not permitted for minors, he explained.

The 32-year-old ethnic Uyghur wasn't complaining, at least not to a group of foreign journalists brought to his home outside the city of Aksu by government officials, who listened in on his responses. It seemed he was giving a matter-of-fact description of how religion is practiced under rules set by China's Communist Party.

“My children know who our holy creator is, but I don’t give them detailed religious knowledge,” he said, speaking through a translator. “After they reach 18, they can receive religious education according to their own will.”

Under the weight of official policies, the future of Islam appears precarious in Xinjiang, a rugged realm of craggy snow-capped mountains and barren deserts bordering Central Asia. Outside observers say scores of mosques have been demolished, a charge Beijing denies, and locals say the number of worshippers is sinking.

A decade ago, 4,000 to 5,000 people attended Friday prayers at the Id Kah Mosque in the historic Silk Road city of Kashgar. Now only 800 to 900 do, said the mosque's imam, Mamat Juma. He attributed the drop to a natural shift in values, not government policy, saying the younger generation wants to spend more time working than praying.

The Chinese government organized a five-day visit to Xinjiang in April for about a dozen foreign correspondents, part of an intense propaganda campaign to counter allegations of abuse. Officials repeatedly urged journalists to recount what they saw, not what China calls the lies of critical Western politicians and media.

Beijing says it protects freedom of religion, and citizens can practice their faith so long as they adhere to laws and regulations. In practice, any religious activity must be done in line with restrictions evident at almost every stop in Xinjiang — from a primary school where the headmaster said fasting wasn’t observed because of the “separation of religion and education,” to a cotton yarn factory where workers are banned from praying on site, even in their dormitory rooms.

“Within the factory grounds, it’s prohibited. But they can go home, or they can go to the mosque to pray,” said Li Qiang, the general manager of Aksu Huafu Textiles Co. “Dormitories are for the workers to rest. We want them to rest well so that they can maintain their health.”

By law, Chinese are allowed to follow Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Roman Catholicism or non-denominational Protestantism. In practice, there are limits. Workers are free to fast, the factory manager said, but they are required to take care of their bodies. If children fast, it's not good for their growth, said the Id Kah mosque's imam.

Researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank, said in a report last year that mosques have been torn down or damaged in what they called the deliberate erasure of Uyghur and Islamic culture. They identified 170 destroyed mosques through satellite imagery, about 30% of a sample they examined.

______________________________________________________

2.

Mosques disappear as China strives to ‘build a beautiful Xinjiang.

13th May 2021

Thomson Reuter

By: Cate Cadell

QIRA, China (Reuters) – The Jiaman mosque in the city of Qira, in the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang, is hidden behind high walls and Communist Party propaganda signs, leaving passersby with no indication that it is home to a religious site.

In late April, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, two ethnic Uyghur women sat behind a tiny mesh grate, underneath a surveillance camera, inside the compound of what had long been the city’s largest place of worship.

Reuters could not establish if the place was currently functioning as a mosque.

Within minutes of reporters arriving, four men in plain clothes showed up and took up positions around the site, locking gates to nearby residential buildings.

The men told the reporters it was illegal to take photos and to leave.

“There’s no mosque here … there has never been a mosque at this site,” said one of the men in response to a question from Reuters if there was a mosque inside. He declined to identify himself.

Minarets on the building’s four corners, visible in publicly available satellite images in 2019, have gone. A large blue metal box stood where the mosque’s central dome had once been. It was not clear if it was a place of worship at that time the satellite images were taken.

In recent months, China has stepped up a campaign on state media and with government-arranged tours to counter the criticism of researchers, rights groups and former Xinjiang residents who say thousands of mosques have been targeted in a crackdown on the region’s mostly Muslim Uyghur people.

Officials from Xinjiang and Beijing told reporters in Beijing that no religious sites had been forcibly destroyed or restricted and invited them to visit and report.

“Instead, we have taken a series of measures to protect them,” Elijan Anayat, a spokesman for the Xinjiang government, said of mosques late last year.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday some mosques had been demolished, while others had been upgraded and expanded as part of rural revitalisation but Muslims could practise their religion openly at home and in mosques.

Asked about restrictions authorities put on journalists visiting the area, Hua said reporters had to try harder to “win the trust of the Chinese people” and report objectively.

Reuters visited more than two dozen mosques across seven counties in southwest and central Xinjiang on a 12-day visit during Ramadan, which ends on Thursday.

There is a contrast between Beijing’s campaign to protect mosques and free religious freedom and the reality on the ground. Most of the mosques that Reuters visited had been partially or completely demolished.

‘LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL’

China repeatedly says that Xinjiang faces a serious threat from “separatists, terrorists and religious extremists” who plot attacks and stir up tension between Uyghurs who call the region home and the ethnic Han, China’s majority community.

A mass crackdown that includes a campaign of restrictions on religious practice and what rights groups call the “forced political indoctrination” of more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslims began in earnest in 2017.

Beijing denies detaining people in detention camps, calling them vocational training centres.

The government says there are more than 20,000 mosques in Xinjiang but no detailed data on their status is available.

Some functioning mosques have signs saying congregants must register while citizens from outside the area, foreigners and anyone under the age of 18 are banned from going in.

Functioning mosques feature surveillance cameras and include Chinese flags and propaganda displays declaring loyalty to the ruling Communist Party.

Visiting reporters were almost always followed by plainclothes personnel and warned not to take photographs.

A Han woman, who said she had moved to the city of Hotan six years ago from central China, said Muslims who wanted to pray could do so at home.

“There are no Muslims like that here anymore,” the woman, said, referring to those who used to pray at the mosque. She added: “Life in Xinjiang is beautiful.”

‘ETHNIC UNITY’

Some state-sanctioned mosques are shown off to visiting journalists and diplomats, like the Jiaman Mosque in Hotan.

“Everything is paid for by the party,” said a Hotan official at the mosque on a visit arranged for Reuters by the city propaganda department.

The official, who went by the nickname “Ade” but declined to give his full name, said men were free to pray at the mosque five times a day, according to Islamic custom.

While reporters were there, several dozen men, most of them elderly, came to pray as dusk fell. Afterwards, they broke their fast with food provided by the local government.

The mosque, more than 170 years old, is one of four in the region earmarked as cultural relics, with funds for renovation from the central government, the Xinjiang government said.

As the mosque’s leader or imam removed his shoes, Ade demonstrated a machine given by the government that shrink-wraps shoes in plastic.

“Now you don’t even need to take your shoes off in the mosque, it’s very convenient,” he said.

In Changji, about 40 km west of the regional capital, Urumqi, green and red minarets of the city’s Xinqu Mosque lay broken below a Chinese flag flying over the deserted building’s courtyard.

Reuters analysed satellite imagery of 10 mosques in Changji city and visited six of them.

A total of 31 minarets and 12 green or gold domes had been removed within a period of two months after April 2018, according to dated images.

At several mosques, Islamic architecture was replaced with Chinese-style roofing. These included Changji’s Tianchi road mosque, whose gold dome and minarets were removed in 2018, according to publicly available satellite images.

Reuters was unable to reach local officials or authorities in Xinjiang for comment on how the mosque was being used.

Researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimated in 2020, after a survey of 900 Xinjiang locations, that 16,000 mosques had been partially or completely destroyed over the previous three years.

Signs outside the Xinqu Mosque said a housing development would soon be built on the site.

“For ethic unity, build a beautiful Xinjiang,” a sign read.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Robert Birsel)

 

End

 

 

 

November 2020 Update

RELIGIONS OF CHINA UPDATES

November 2020

 

1 Update

    

          1. Is the Dalai Lama set to become a relic of Tibet’s past?

 

 

                                1st November 2020

 

South China Morning Post

Is the Dalai Lama set to become a relic of Tibet’s past?

* According to Beijing’s propaganda banners, the spiritual leader is ‘the head of a political clique that seeks independence for Tibet’

* China’s Communist Party is ‘continually refining its techniques for aggressive secularisation’, academic says

By: Jun Mai in Lhasa

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3107906/dalai-lama-set-become-relic-tibets-past  

“I don’t know much about him,” said Chongji Lamu, 25, when asked her opinion of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.

“The older folks might know, but we don’t ask and they don’t tell,” she said, near her village in Shigatse in central Tibet.

There is every reason for her to be cautious. Beijing’s verdict on the Dalai Lama, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is spelt out on banners across rural Tibet.

“The 14th Dalai Lama is the head of a political clique that seeks independence for Tibet,” one says beside a road in Shigatse. The sign has been erected in front of a sea of prayer flags.

“He is the loyal tool of the international anti-China forces, and ultimate root of Tibet’s social unrest.”

Speaking to the South China Morning Post during a reporting trip to Tibet organised by the Chinese government, Lamu, who finished college 2018 in Shandong, the coastal province designated to provide point-to-point aides to her city, said she now worked in a food factory set up as a part of the country’s poverty alleviation programme.

“Whenever I visit the downtown, I visit Tashi Lhunpo Monastery,” she said, referring to the traditional monastic seat of the Panchen Lama, the second highest lama in Tibetan Buddhism.

The current Panchen Lama is a 30-year-old member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s highest political advisory body.

“But that’s just me,” said Lamu. “Young Tibetans don’t care much about religion. They don’t have time to.”

The issue of the Dalai Lama is at the heart of Beijing’s decade-long grievances in Tibetan areas. Ethnic unrest rocked the city of Lhasa in late 1980s and in 2008, which Beijing blamed on the Dalai Lama but rights groups said were signs of desperate resistance by the Tibetans against the government’s repressive religious policies.

The South China Morning Post joined a reporting trip to Tibet organised by the Chinese government. It was heavily focused on poverty alleviation, but also offered a glimpse into how Beijing’s religious policies are being implemented on the ground.

The Dalai Lama, who turned 85 in July, had suggested terminating the reincarnation practice, but Beijing insists that it must be done according to Chinese laws. A Chinese scholar has publicly argued that the next Dalai Lama will be a “patriotic” one.

Beijing’s strategy on the Dalai Lama seems to be just waiting him out.

“He left [Tibet] many years ago,” said Gama Danba, a senior propaganda official, referring to the Dalai Lama’s secret flight from Lhasa in 1959. “The people have almost forgotten about him.”

It is impossible to independently verify his claim. Portraits of the Dalai Lama are strictly prohibited in China, but on lower level governance, the issue obviously still resonates.

In 2016, a Communist Party member in Yushu, a Tibetan area of Qinghai province, was punished for putting up a portrait of the Dalai Lama in his home, according to a post on a local government website.

In 2014, the party chief of Ganzi, a Tibetan prefecture in Sichuan province, ordered local officials to confiscate portraits of the Dalai Lama found in vehicles and trace where they came from, according to local media reports.

Tibet’s Communist Party chief Wu Yingjie wrote on the subject in the party’s flagship magazine in October, but framed it as both a political and economic development issue.

“[We] must firmly grasp the control of ideology, better manage the brains after we manage the tummies,” he wrote.

“[We must] resolutely eliminate the negative influence caused by the 14th Dalai Lama under the cloak of religion, and guide the people to treat religion rationally and give greater focus on their present life.”

While it is impossible to accurately assess public opinion in Tibet, Beijing’s policies might work, said Robert Barnett, a former director of Columbia University’s modern Tibetan studies programme.

“The Chinese Communist Party is continually refining its techniques for aggressive secularisation and is now combining them with more sophisticated forms of social and cultural dislocation,” he said.

“So perhaps this will finally work among the younger generation.”

Barnett said that while Beijing had traditionally been confident about Tibet’s stability, the death of the Dalai Lama, and selection of his successor, could provide a flashpoint for dissidence.

Beijing insists that religious freedom is safeguarded in Tibet, but the regional government has talked openly about a campaign to “play down negative religious influence” among Tibetans.

Chinese officials regard people’s dedication to Buddhism as an obstacle to economic development. So called overgenerous offerings to temples, people’s indifference to education, the reluctance of Tibetan herdsmen to sell their cattle and believers banking on a better afterlife are all frowned upon.

“Some officials, including ethnic Tibetans, are hostile to religion and some are tolerant,” said Barry Sautman, an expert on Tibetan studies with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

“Almost all have the typical developmentalist viewpoint common to officialdom throughout China and elsewhere. They therefore inevitably decry any indifference to present life,” he said.

But forced disassociation of people from their religion did not appear to be a general policy in Tibet, he said.

Deji Baizhen, the Communist Party chief of Caiqutang village, about 90km (56 miles) from Lhasa, tries to walk a fine line. More than 600 herdsmen moved to her village from remote areas in 2017, in a government-funded relocation project that offers free housing in areas that promises better education and health care.

“Playing it down [religious influence] takes time. There’s no way we can shut down a shrine for the Buddha by force,” she said in Mandarin, referring to private shrine Tibetans set up at home for the worship of the Buddhas. “The elders especially have such needs. We can’t be too harsh.”

All Communist Party members were required to sign pledges every year confirming that they were atheist, and would try to non-atheists to think less about religion, Baizhen told the visiting journalists.

“We also conduct campaigns and sometimes surprise inspections to check if they have set up new shrines for the Buddhas,” the ethnic Tibetan said.
Barnett said the party’s approach marked a new strategy, targeting religious beliefs among the public on top of limiting religious institutes.

In 2006, there were about 46,000 monks and nuns in the Tibet autonomous region, equivalent to about 1.5 per cent of the region’s population at the time, according to government figures. Before the Dalai Lama was forced into exile the proportion was about 10 times that.

“Adding more monks, building new temples or organising new religious events are not allowed,” Gama Danba said. “But we can keep what’s already here.”

While Beijing’s plan on Tibet is clear to many, Todd Stein – who worked as director of government relations at the International Campaign for Tibet before joining the US state department, where he was senior adviser to the undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights and special coordinator for Tibetan issues – described the situation as a result of both government policies and personal choices.

“Tibet advocates tend to undervalue the choices that individual Tibetans inside Tibet make about the role of religion or language in their lives, in order to make their way in the world they are growing up in,” said Stein, who has worked in Tibet for the US government.

“At the same time … it is very hard to distinguish ethnic and religious identities, and even languages and cultural practices repressed for centuries have a way of blossoming,” he said.

“I think he [the Dalai Lama] will be revered for decades, if not centuries, after his passing, as the symbol of what was taken from Tibetans, and what they strive to reclaim.”

* This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Beijing hoping to wait Dalai Lama out

* Jun Mai is an award-winning journalist and has covered Chinese politics, diplomacy, legal affairs, social activism and general breaking news for a decade. Before his current posting in Beijing, he was based in Hong Kong and has also completed a stint in Washington D.C.

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