December 13, 2018
The Chinese government desperately wants to strike a trade deal with America -- but how much are they willing to do to get it? A new agreement could be worth billions, but for people in both countries, the economy is only one side of the story.
While most of the world is looking at the negotiations in dollars and cents, at least a few leaders -- Ambassador Sam Brownback included -- have a different priority: ending the crackdown on millions of faithful across China. A new era of religious persecution has arrived, and men and women of every faith are in the crosshairs. For Christians, a favorite target of the communist regime, a new panic is spreading. Underground churches that have been in existence for years are being sealed shut. Pastors are disappearing in the middle of the night, while homes and sanctuaries are ransacked.
And the worse, human rights advocate Nina Shea points out, may be yet to come. Christians' "police records will now be used in China's new Orwellian social credit score system to deny them access to government trains, planes, schools, pensions and other benefits." The government's "repression against the churches," she writes with Bob Fu, "is being done in the name of President Xi Jinping's 'sinicization' campaign, ostensibly to strengthen Chinese culture. However, it increasingly appears aimed at removing the Bible and its teachings from Chinese Christianity."
Earlier this week, 100 Christians from Early Rain Covenant Church were rounded up and imprisoned. Some, Nina writes, are reporting that they were raped and abused by police. And the nightmare is only growing.
"Minors are now banned from entering any church. Online sales of Bibles are blocked. The Catholic Catechism is censored. Churches report that their crosses and other Christian symbols are being torn down and sometimes replaced with pictures of none other than President Xi himself. Since February, thousands of churches have been forced shut. It's particularly chilling that many of the 10,000 Protestant churches closed in one province were actually government-approved ones."
Pastor Wang Yi, speaking on behalf of the persecuted across China, wrote a powerful letter that he asked his followers to release if he were ever detained for more than two days. This week, he was. "As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ's Great Commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world... I hope God uses me, by means of first losing my personal freedom, to tell those who have deprived me of my personal freedom that there is an authority higher than their authority, and that there is a freedom that they cannot restrain, a freedom that fills the church of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ."
And Christians aren't the only victims. Satellite images are coming back to the West with new proof of World War II-type camps. "On 12 July 2015," the BBC reports, "a satellite swung over the rolling deserts and oasis cities of China's vast far west. One of the images it captured that day just shows a patch of empty, untouched, ashen-grey sand. It seems an unlikely place to start an investigation into one of the most pressing human rights concerns of our age. But less than three years later, on 22 April 2018, a satellite photo of that same piece of desert showed something new. A massive, highly secure compound had materialized. It is enclosed with a 2km-long exterior wall punctuated by 16 guard towers." Now, there are more than 1,200 of them.
Now, more than any other time, America is a unique position to speak into this crisis of human freedom and dignity -- both from an opportunity standpoint and a leadership standpoint. President Trump and his entire administration have been tireless advocates for religious liberty from the moment they entered the White House. May they use this leverage to bring about greater freedom for the people of China and around the world.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.