The myth of Chinese religious freedom
March 13, 2006
A very interesting news item went up on the VOM web site late Friday afternoon. The information, which came to VOM through our partnership with China Aid Association, told of a Chinese police raid on a church in Henan Province, China.
Here's the interesting thing: the church that was raided was REGISTERED WITH THE GOVERNMENT. It was a member of the Three Self Patriotic Movement. It had government permission to exist!
There are those in America who believe the myth of Chinese religious freedom. They believe that Chinese Christians are as free as American Christians. They see church registration in China no differently than a church in the U.S. registering for tax-exempt status. In the minds of these Communist apologists, persecuted Christians in China are trouble makers and law breakers; if they would learn to cooperate with government leaders and abide by the law, then their troubles would be over.
This case blows the apologists' position out of the water. If registration is the answer for Chinese Christians, then why was a registered church raided by police?
Seems this church violated the Chinese "Three Designate" policy. All three of the "designates" in this policy are controlled by the government: they designate WHO can lead a religious service; they designate WHERE such services can be held; and they designate WHEN the services can be. And the OK to lead meetings is location-specific. If a pastor wants to preach at a church in the next county, he or she has to get government permission to do so.
Seems in this case either the pastor leading the Bible study session didn't have permission to minister in Xiangcheng County, or the church didn't have permission to hold a meeting on a Monday morning. Or both. Pastor Liu Tuanjie, age 34, is from Shangshui County, though he was leading this meeting in Xiangcheng. He was one of three leaders arrested by the police when they raided the meeting.
Has your church had a guest speaker lately? Did you get permission from the local police, or even from denominational headquarters? Was your guest speaker required to present his or her identification at the police station before speaking, and maybe to run the sermon outline by the police chief or mayor for a stamp of approval?
Religious freedom in China exists only for those who are Communists first, and Christians (or Muslims, or Falun Gong, or whatever) after that. Chinese church registration isn't just getting along with the government, and it is NOTHING like tax-exempt registration in the U.S.
It's time for American Christians, even the China apologists, to know the truth.
Todd Nettleton is the Director of News Services for The Voice of the Martyrs-USA.