Wednesday, February 18, 2009

CHINA: PERSECUTION TO ESCALATE IN 2009

WEA Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 517 | Wed 18 Feb 2009

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CHINA: PERSECUTION TO ESCALATE IN 2009
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By Elizabeth Kendal

Protests or 'mass incidents' have been on the rise in China over recent years. Not having democratic institutions, free media, openness and due process, this is the way Chinese citizens can express their anger over corruption, injustice, human rights abuses, low wages, wealth disparity, workers' rights and the like. Anger is likely to rise further this year as unemployment reaches critical levels due to the world economic downturn which is lessening global demand for Chinese products. Furthermore, a group of dissident intellectuals published their 'Charter 08' on 10 December 2008 -- a manifesto calling for sweeping political and human rights reforms. Despite Chinese Communist Party (CCP) efforts to block access to Charter 08, it has now been signed by more than 2000 Chinese citizens, including numerous prominent intellectuals and officials. Many China watchers are expecting a sharp increase in anger, dissent and 'mass incidents' during 2009, with an equally sharp increase in official reactionary repression.

President Hu Jintao recently ordered his military commanders to 'strengthen military discipline' so as to keep the People's Liberation Army (PLA) loyal to the CCP through this year of economic difficulties and emotionally charged anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of the Tibet uprising (10 March); the 20th anniversary of the June 4 democratic movement; and the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (1 October).

Last week China underwent a UN Human Rights Council 'Universal Periodic Review'. After delivering a lengthy boast, the Chinese delegation rejected the criticism levelled at it by a few and basked in the praise of the majority. China rejected proposals from countries such as Australia, Germany and Canada that it improve religious liberty and end torture, the death penalty and arbitrary detention. Only the accepted proposals are listed in detail for the report including: Egypt's proposal that the death penalty be continued; Sudan's proposal that 'reform of re-education through labour' be pursued 'according to the Chinese system'; Zimbabwe's proposal that poverty be reduced; and Cuba's proposal that China continue to crack down on (allegedly) subversive human rights defenders. In all, the majority voted that China's human rights record was 'on track'. Naturally China sees this 'victory' as a vindication of its policy.

Meanwhile, persecution of the Church is escalating. According to China Aid Association (CAA), house-church Christian Yuan Shenlun (70), who had already spent 14 years in prison for his faith, was arrested on 20 January and accused of 'using an evil cult organisation to obstruct justice'. On 4 February police seized Christian lawyer Gao Zhisheng from his home in Beijing. Goa, a former member of both the CCP and PLA, has been arrested before and during September-October 2007 was tortured so severely he wanted to die. (See China Aid Association.) Gao's present whereabouts are unknown. Four of 60 house-church leaders arrested in Henan Province on 11 February remain in custody. On 4 February Compass Direct reported that the CCP 'has ramped up efforts both to identify Christians and to portray Christianity as a subversive foreign force'. This is a very dangerous development.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* God to build, sanctify and refine his Church in China so that in holiness she may shine as a light in the darkness -- a light that exposes lies and reveals truth, for the sake of the Kingdom and glory of God.

* the Holy Spirit to fill all Chinese Church leaders with courage, faith, insight and wisdom, drawing them deep into his word and into prayer; may every effort of the CCP to contain the Church be confounded and that it may in fact continue to grow.

* Yuan Shenlun, Gao Zhisheng and all other Christians in prison and labour camps for their faith and practice, that they may experience the fellowship of Christ, and that God's angels will mercifully restrain the fists and rods that are raised against them. 'Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent out for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?' (Hebrews 1:14 ESV)