Providence | 12.23.15
By Alan Dowd
It’s Christmastime in the People’s Republic of China, and Beijing
continues its crackdown on people of faith, especially Christians.
The latest example came this month in the town of Dazhou, in central China, where local authorities closed down another house church. As Christianity Today reports, some 1,700
churches have been demolished or had their crosses forcibly removed in
Zhejiang province as part of a three-year program aimed at countering
the rise of Christianity in China. Last year, Beijing smothered a
burgeoning religious-openness movement in Wenzhou, a city in eastern
China “known for its relaxed ties between church and state,” as The New York Times reports.
Too relaxed, it turns out. Xia Baolong, a regional Communist Party
leader, saw the 180-foot spire atop a new Christian church and was
“disturbed that a religious building, especially one seen as
representing a foreign belief, dominated the skyline,” according to the Times.
So, government authorities bulldozed the newly-built church and then
ordered a dozen other churches in the region to remove their crosses or
Importantly, Xia is a close ally of Xi Jinping, China’s president.
Although Western reporters are charmed by what Reuters calls a “folksy
smile,” it pays to recall that Xi was a central part of the regime’s
policies long before he became president—policies that, according to the
U.S. government, include the harshest crackdown on dissent in more than
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
provides the details: “The Chinese government continues to perpetrate
particularly severe violations of religious freedom… Independent
Catholics and Protestants face arrests, fines, and the shuttering of
their places of worship.” Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, practitioners of
Falun Gong, folk religionists, and Protestant house-church attenders
“face long jail terms, forced renunciations of faith, and torture in
detention… Protestants and Catholics who refuse to join the
state-sanctioned religious organizations continue to face severe
restrictions, including efforts to undermine and harass their leaders,
arrest and detentions, and property destruction.”
Amnesty International estimates that “hundreds of thousands of
people” are subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention in China, many
of them for “peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression
and freedom of belief.”
Some of those targeted for their religious beliefs and political
views end up in labor camps that double as factories. The Laogai
Research Foundation identified 1,100 prison-labor camps in its 2006
report. According to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC),
“prison labor has been used to manufacture, among other products, toys,
electronics, and clothing. The export to the United States of products
manufactured through the use of forced labor in China’s prison system
and other forms of detention reportedly continues despite U.S.-China
agreements.” These camps have been known to churn out rosaries, Christmas wreaths, Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and other holiday decorations—all for export to the West.
For those of us who believe in free trade and free markets, there is
nothing wrong, in and of itself, with the tidal wave of Chinese goods
flowing into the U.S.—that is, unless there’s something wrong about the
system that produces those goods. And there is something very wrong with
China’s system. China may engage in free-market economics, but China’s
people are not free.
If we can’t take notice of China’s prison-labor camps and repression
during the rest of the year, Christmas seems the ideal time to open our
eyes, for Christmas was not intended for the wealthy, the comfortable,
or the powerful. It’s for the captive, the persecuted, the weak. If
anyone fits those descriptions, it is China’s prison-laborers.
Yes, Beijing announced in
late 2013 that it would close its network of “reeducation through
labor” camps. But this proved to be an exercise in word games. The name
changed, but the system remains. “The net effect of this policy shift
was unclear,” the CECC concludes, “as reports emerged that authorities
increased the use of other facilities…to arbitrarily detain citizens.”
There is a brutal logic to Beijing’s brutal response to independent
religious activity. After all, the common denominator of most religions
is that there is something above, something beyond, something bigger,
something more enduring and more important than the state. That notion
represents a mortal threat to the legitimacy and durability of the
People’s Republic of China, which is founded on the premise that people
exist to serve the state—not to glorify God.
As Christianity Today details, Beijing is growing “progressively more suspicious of the
influence of Christianity, which is experiencing significant growth in
China.” Some reports suggest that 10,000 people are converting to
Christianity every day in Mao’s officially-atheist people’s
paradise. There are an estimated 100 million Christians in China today,
up from 1 million at the PRC’s founding. By 2030, CT reports, experts
predict “China will be home to more Christians than any other country in
the world.” That must terrify Beijing’s godless business-suit
They wouldn’t be the first to be shaken by the arrival of Emmanuel.
An oft-overlooked part of the first Christmas is what a ruthless ruler
named Herod was willing to do to eliminate any threat to his throne.
Matthew’s gospel tells us, “He gave orders to kill all the boys in
Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.” Herod’s
assault brought “weeping and great mourning” to the people of Bethlehem.
That brings us back, in a heartbreaking way, to Christmastime in China.
In late October of this year, the PRC announced an end to its
monstrous one-child policy, which was instituted, in Deng Xiaoping’s
words, to make sure that “the fruits of economic growth are not devoured
by population growth.” The policy has had enormous unintended
As a result of the one-child policy, China’s population is rapidly
aging. By 2040, the number of working-age adults in China will shrink by
more than 10 percent—“a net loss of 90 million workers,” Reuters
reports. The number of senior citizens in China is growing by 3.7
percent annually—a staggering figure, according to demographers.
As a result of the one-child policy, the ratio of newborn girls to
boys is 100:119. The biological norm is 100:103. Such an imbalance
between males and females portends serious social, cultural, political
and geopolitical problems. A society without female influence is the
stuff of nightmares.
As a result of the one-child policy, 336 million abortions have been performed, with the scythe decimating China’s female population. A Swiss NGO calls it “gendercide.”
The targets and tactics may be different, but the weeping and mourning continues in China.