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After Vatican-China deal, persecution of Christians increases

Martin M. Barillas Martin M. Barillas Follow Martin

BEIJING, May 10, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — China Aid, a nonprofit that monitors Chinese communist persecution of Christians, reported that a government seminar encouraged Communists to avoid conversion and to instead adhere to the party’s "correct views" regarding religion.

"The Chinese government often views religions, including Christianity, as foreign attempts to undermine its rule, even though there is no evidential basis for such a claim," said the China Aid report. "As a result, they often try to suppress religious adherents, and they openly forbid Communist Party members from practicing a religion."

The Municipal Radio Administrative Bureau in Hebi, a city in the Henan province, acknowledged on social media holding the seminar. According UCA news, the seminar was held to indoctrinate Communists about the party’s teachings about Christianity and “prevent the occurrence of ideological deviations."

Director Ying Fuk-tsang of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong told UCA News that the Communist government seeks to control thought throughout the various internet and telecommunications networks. Ying said China has sought to expand social controls “through non-religious ways to deal with religious issues."

"(T)herefore, it is no longer a single religious department to manage religion, but the joint effort of different departments to manage all around," Ying said. He added that he thinks Chinese President Xi Jinping is behind the effort.

China continues to destroy Christian crosses and shutter unauthorized churches. For decades, Chinese authorities have persecuted Christians and held some in prison for years.

For example, the welfare of 87-year-old Catholic Bishop James Su Zhimin of Hebei province is still unknown. In a UCA News report, a nephew said he does not know whether the bishop is alive. Bishop Su was arrested during a religious procession in 1996 and charged with conducting “unregistered” religious activities after refusing to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which is the version of the Catholic Church recognized by the Communist government.

Appointed by Pope St. John Paul II, Bishop Su was not recognized by the Chinese government as a bishop. Before his arrest in 1996, Bishop Su had already spent some 26 years in prison or in forced labor camps. In 2003, family members found him hospitalized in Baoding, Hebei province. He has not been seen since.

According to the bishop’s nephew, Su Tianyou, neither the Vatican nor Beijing have confirmed whether the bishop might now be released after the September 2018 provisional agreement between the two parties on bishop appointments. In the following month, Bishop Michael Yeung of Hong Kong told Reuters that his diocese continues to pray for Bishop Su’s release.

According to the latest report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, “repression of the underground Catholic Church increased during the latter half of the year” despite the deal inked by Vatican and Chinese diplomats. The report by the bipartisan commission, which advises the President and Congress on religious freedom, includes the individual views of the commissioners. Commissioner Johnnie Moore, an evangelical Christian, wrote that the deal was “one of the most alarming incidents as it relates to religious freedom in the entire year.”

Within days of the Vatican negotiating its deal, the Chinese used it as cover to embark upon the closure of several of the nation’s largest and most prominent unregistered church communities,” Moore wrote.

He opined that the Vatican “bears a significant moral and legal responsibility to help solve the problem which it helped created — albeit inadvertently — by providing China license to viciously crack down on Christian communities (as cited in this report), and by providing the Chinese government further cover to continue its incomprehensible, inexcusable and inhumane abuses of Muslim citizens in the western part of the country.”

“The Vatican made a terrible mistake,” Moore wrote, “which it must take seriously. This debacle must be dealt with urgently and seriously.”

The Commission’s report cited China as a country of “special concern” because of its systematic abuse of religious minorities. In March, Ambassador Sam Brownback, who leads the Commission, was dismissive of the Vatican deal with China.

There are 93 million to 115 million Christians living in China, which has an overall population of 1.3 billion. By 2030, China may have the largest Christian community in the world.

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