A two-headed dragon
"Chinese Christians celebrated Christmas this year in a mood of renewed hope, as Beijing hints at greater religious tolerance," began an article in Friday's edition of the British Guardian newspaper. "With more than 10 million Catholics and Protestants in recognized churches—and millions more who worship unofficially—there is a more open mind to what religion can offer across China." (These numbers are actually pretty low; the new edition of Operation World claims 17 million in China's official Three-Self churches and 91.5 million Christians in the country altogether.) A similar article appears in this week's issue of Far Eastern Economic Review, which reports that "suddenly God and Marx seem compatible" to Chinese authorities.
They spoke too soon. Yesterday, a court in Jingmen city, central Hubei province, ordered the execution of five founders of an underground Protestant church. Two other church members were also sentenced to death, but given a two-year reprieve. (Agence France-Presse is apparently the only one with this information—everyone else is reporting only two death sentences, based on reports from the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.) The New York Times points out that this is "the first time executions have been ordered under the country's 1999 anti-cult law." (If any reader knows anything about the South China Church, the denomination of the prisoners, please contact Weblog. AFP says it has 50,000 members across 10 Chinese provinces, and The New York Times says it's a splinter group from the Total Scope Church. But Weblog doesn't know much about that denomination either.)
In another bad move over the weekend, China formally put its one-child ...1