ATLANTA- While evangelicals and persecution watchdogs are furious at the China Bible Ministry Exhibition sponsored by the China Christian Council and the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (CCC/TSMP), a top CCC/TSPM leader has openly admitted that the exhibition is "propaganda" as what many criticized.
The Texas-based Chinese persecution watchdog China Aid Association (CAA) has released a press statement on May 20 to attack the Chinese government’s motive in organizing such exhibition in the U.S.
"Those who know well about the operation of Chinese government and its sanctioned religious organizations should acknowledge this exhibition is nothing but a PR campaign to cover up the religious persecution image in the U.S.," CAA stated.
President of CAA Rev. Bob Fu pinpointed the self-contradiction of the Chinese government as saying, "It’s rather ironical that Beijing House Church pastor Cai Zhuohua is serving for three years sentence in the Chinese prison for printing Bibles in China since last year while the propaganda message of this Bible exhibition is that there is freedom to print Bibles in China."
"Yes, if they [opponents of the Bible exhibition] say the exhibition is propaganda, I would admit that. However, it is propaganda of God’s grace and blessings in China. We count God’s blessings. What’s wrong with that?" said Rev. Deng Fucun, residential vice-chairperson of the National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, on Monday at the Bible exhibition held at the Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church.
The 70-year-old Deng said Chinese Christians were severely persecuted during the Cultural Revolution in China. He has also gone through that period.
"During the Cultural Revolution, pastors gathered at cowshed and churches were closed down…the government wanted to clear up all Christians, but God’s grace can never be stopped." Deng recalled. "In the cowshed, I blamed God, ‘why you have put me to this situation? I cannot carry this heavy yoke.’…but as I look back after the Cultural Revolution, I know that God has prepared me to work for him today… God’s way is higher than our way, at that time, I have not realized that."
"If we are trying to show you something that is not true in this exhibition, then I think we deserved to be criticized. We are testifying God’s grace, but some other people are saying that the Chinese church is being persecuted, what they say is also propaganda," Deng continued, adding that many American Christians encouraged them to hold this exhibition in more cities.
Concerning Cai’s arrest, Rev. Mei Kangjun, executive associate secretary general of the National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, commented Cai was "doing something illegal."
"In China, you cannot print Bible recklessly. We have to print the Bibles at the Amity Printing Press," Mei said. "You must go through the [Amity] Press to print Bibles or any other Christian literature."
Deng also argued, when asked about the persecution against house churches, that persecutions may exist in some rural areas due to the miscommunication between the officials and the Central government concerning religious policies.
"But if you look at China as an overall picture, the mainstream is that the government does allow religious freedom," Deng claimed.
Challenged by the saying that the Bibles are only for the registered churches, Deng suggested that they have helped unregistered churches and gave examples of how they distribute Bibles to them.
Throughout the interview, Deng did not fully respond to the questions concerning house churches and the persecution. Just as many of the other CCC/TSPM leaders, Deng have stressed on the "official" number of Christians - around 16 millions- in China.
Many other mission organizations estimated that the number should be actually 60 millions including Christians from the unregistered churches. This hints that the CCC/TSPM leaders do not recognize the unregistered believers although Deng claimed that "no matter what kind of church, if it peaches about Jesus Christ died on the cross, it is a church of God."
Johnny Li, Open Doors U.S.A. spokesman for China mission, minister-at-large, questioned the "official" figures after he has visited the same Bible exhibition in Los Angeles earlier this month. Li tried to point out the shortage of the Bibles among house churches.
"Now in China, there are just around 16 millions Christians, but a total of 40 millions Bibles were claimed to be printed. If it is the case, it means that Bibles are actually overwhelming in China!" Li said in a previous interview.
"All what we can do is to raise question and challenge. We cannot say to the Church in China that there is a huge shortage of Bible as there are actually 60 millions Christians. We do not have a hard evidence for this figure."
"It is true that the official Church has already done a lot and I am happy to see what they have done. But China is such a big country, is it possible that the Church can fulfill all the gaps in order to satisfy the need of Christians?" he continued.
The Chinese government has upheld strictly its "Three-Self" policies for churches in China and warned of the foreign "infiltration" under the cover of religion, but provision of resources by overseas organization is actually very vital for the growth of churches in China, according to Li.
"We will continue to fill the gap that has to be satisfied in China in terms of resources. We will continue to do what God intends us to do and we also bless that God will guide the official Church in China to change its direction so that it can become more opened," concluded Li.