Note: This is the latest in a series of articles on ChinaAid's report on persecution in China. Earlier this week, China Source's Brent Fulton and Open Doors's Jan Vermeer countered some of the conclusions of the report, noting that most Christians in the country do not claim they are being persecuted. Today, ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu responds.
After reading the opinion pieces of Brent Fulton and Jan Vermeer, I have concluded that we have very different readings of the facts regarding persecution of "house church" Protestantism in China.
The ChinaAid annual report states simply that the number of incidents of "persecution" increased in 2012 from the previous years, including a number of arrest, sentencing to labor camps, short term detentions, rape and torture in police custody, destruction and confiscation of property, beatings, fines, the loss of jobs or business licenses, and police intimidation. We believe these to be egregious and severe violations of the international freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief that warrant the attention of the worldwide Christian church, human rights advocates, and policy-makers.
The mission of ChinaAid is to highlight such abuses and assist the faithful in China to deal with their situation, particularly the members of a fast growing "house church" movement who are technically illegal (or abnormal in Chinese legal parlance) because of their refusal to join the government-approved "Three Self Protestant Movement" (TSPM). Most Protestants in the "house church" movement have vast theological differences with the TSPM and view its leadership as complicit in past and ongoing persecution. Even Vietnam, which does not have a stellar religious freedom record, allows for different Protestant denominations to register and operate independently.
Our report does not conclude that the Chinese government is trying to "wipe out Christianity." Instead we show through the government's own secret directive and documents that its policy is to "eradicate" Protestants affiliated with the "house-church" movement unless they affiliate with the TSPM in the next decade in three phases. The new "soft" tactics adopted in the step by step crackdown as listed in our report would not make the massive visible "Cultural Revolutionary" era arrests possible nor will it be successful according to the Chinese Communist government's own acknowledgement. Moreover, since it is our core belief that all political decision emerge from the top, in other words, from Beijing and various Communist Party entities, the documents we discovered are troubling and fit patterns of religious freedom abuses emerging throughout China. This we have tried to demonstrate in our report though as we freely admit, because ChinaAid has limited resources, our statistics are not exhaustive. There are surely many more instances of religious freedom abuses and restrictions going on each year.
One can certainly argue that the persecution we detail is not as gravely serious as that of 30 years ago, when religious believers were disappeared and jailed in huge numbers. However, one cannot discount our findings that the Chinese government is taking steps to "eradicate" the "house church" movement unless the documents and facts we discovered and reported are somehow proven to be fabrications.
Abuses faced by Christians in China are not only a matter of corrupt local officials stealing land or because a church leader is publicly critical of the Communist Party. They occur because it is a policy set by the Communist Party, assisted by the Public Security Bureau and the State Administration of Religious Affairs and carried out by provincial police, an extra-legal anti-cult team called the 6-10 office, and local Religious Affairs Bureaus, a pervasive security and bureaucratic apparatus that does not exist to ensure the freedom of Chinese religious believers.