Official Chinese Newspaper Carries Commentary About Shouwang Church

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

China Aid Association   April 27, 2011
ChinaAid Editor’s Note: The official Chinese newspaper Global Times, a subsidiary of the most important government mouthpiece newspaper, The People's Daily, on Tuesday published the following commentary about Shouwang Church’s attempt to worship outdoors on Easter Sunday. Though it does not go into any details nor explain the background of Shouwang’s actions, the commentary is the first time that Shouwang's outodoor worship has been mentioned by the mainland media, which is under government control. The commentary will immediately tip off to astute Chinese readers that Shouwang has become a worrisome problem for the government. The commentary characterizes Shouwang as a possibly destabilizing social force and suggests disapprovingly that it has widespread Western support. By contrast, the government’s commitment to upholding freedom of religion is highlighted. The Global Times, which has both Chinese and English editions, also published an English version of its commentary (see ) By comparing the Global Times’ English version with the ChinaAid translation of the Chinese version below, a careful reader can see that the Global Times’ English is subtly different from the Chinese; in tone, it is far more neutral, especially in its depiction of Shouwang.

imageGlobal Times Commentary: Some Churches Should Avoid Becoming Politicized
On April 24, Easter Sunday in Christianity, some members of “Shouwang Church” in Haidian District ignored the authorities who tried to dissuade them and they tried to force their way onto the streets to engage in religious activities, and were stopped.  This was already the third time “Shouwang Church” forcibly and illegally held outdoor activities at a public venue. Those in charge of this group urged its members in an open letter on the Internet not to be afraid of being detained and to continue meeting outdoors. Western public opinion is generally in support of this group and accuses China of “suppressing religious freedom.”

Such a situation of conflict between a few religious groups and the (government’s) system for maintaining social order likely is something the authorities really do not want to see happen. Christianity has developed very quickly in China in recent years; many house churches have sprung up all over the country, the majority of which are disassociated from the religious administrative system that already exists in our society. Because the Chinese constitution protects religious freedom, the situation of the “house churches” varies greatly and the government has always been cautious with regard to how to respond to this phenomenon.

It should be pointed out that unwillingness (on the part of the house churches) to join the lawful Christian “Three-Self Patriotic Committee” has long been a problem in the religious affairs of China, but in recent years it has become a more and more conspicuous problem. It is a problem that is not easy to completely resolve, with no ready across-the-board solution. How the house churches themselves behave in this matters greatly. If a “house church” focuses its attention on matters of religious faith, attaches great importance to avoiding clashes with society, and keeps a low profile, it will easily win (the government’s) understanding. If not, it might create problems in (the government’s) management of religion, and these problems will entangle the churches themselves.
“Shouwang Church,” located in Beijing’s Zhongguancun, reportedly has many members who are intellectuals, with membership slowly growing to more than 1000. They should understand why such a big religious organization would be sensitive in China’s current institutional structure. It is already different in certain ways from a true “house churches” that can fit in a house; refusing to acknowledge this point is to deny the facts.

Establishing any large organization has always been treated as a serious matter in China. Chinese society over the course of several decades has developed a habit of being cautious in this area and the government’s corresponding management has always been rather strict. Whether some loosening is needed in this regard is a great political matter for all of society. On such sensitive issues, the church should not act as a radical force to push for or trigger change. If it does, then the church is no longer involved in religion, it is involved in politics, and that is a big taboo for churches.
Regardless of what the “Shouwang Church” members thought when they first got together, they should be able to see that the church has gradually become more and politicized. These are politically sensitive times right now. “Shouwang Church” is greatly overstepping the bounds of what a church should be doing by not cooperating with the government’s management but rather trying to stay just within the legal limits of “religious freedom,” and attempting to realize its own goals through confrontation, which is in fact a response to the political pressure the West is exerting on China.
China is not a perfect country and clearly lacks experience in managing “house churches.” But China pursues a policy of religious freedom, and at the same time is committed to preventing religion from attacking other aspects of social life. This kind of broad policy is not only correct, it also corresponds to China’s reality. That China has for so many years been free of sectarian conflicts and that religions co-exist in peace and harmony is a remarkable achievement for such a big country as China. Everyone should cherish this situation of a stable Chinese society.
April 26, 2011, 8:24am, Global Times
Chinese version:

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