A Washington D.C.-based thinktank will host a two-panel discussion on freedom in China, Tuesday, closely following Chinese president Hu Jintao’s visit to the White House.
The Hudson Institute invited several high-profile dissidents and activists to its summit in hopes to "promote discourse on the severely limited freedom of expression, religious freedom, and the rule of law in China," according to a press handout issued Monday.
Several participants, scheduled to come, have been barred from leaving Mainland China, according to a report posted on Christian Newswire, a portal that often issues press releases from rights organizations.
"We want to clarify to the U.S. public and the NGOs that the forced registration is going to let the government control and eventually destroy the church, instead of helping the church," Bob Fu, president of The China Aid Association, told Gospel Herald in a phone interview.
Fu added that churches registering under the government "surrender control and follow restrictions such as not being allowed to evangelize outside of church, and to preach to anyone under 18 years old."
Last month in Beijing, Rev. Chao Shenjie said Christians in the United States often misunderstand the religious situation in China, during a speech promoting the China Bible Exhibition currently held at the Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles.
"The Bible exhibition aim is to allow people to witness God's miraculous work in China... we have religious freedom and we can spread the gospel in China," Cao told Agence France-Presse (AFP),
Cao explained that the official churches do not have "religious activity in public because we don’t want to cause religious disharmony," though believers are free to evangelize provided that they share their faith privately with friends and colleagues.
Nonetheless, various religious freedom and human rights groups continually report the crackdown and arrests of top house church leaders, leading to international outcry.
Several Chinese and foreign religious scholars have pointed out that despite harsh and coordinate government crackdowns house churches seem to be growing more rapidly than state-approved churches due to proselytizing to outsiders, which is illegal in China.
Amongst those who have been blocked from leaving China to attend the discussions include Gao Zhisheng, a Beijing lawyer who lost his license after being representing clients in several high-profile cases involving human rights.
Participants who will be present at the event include renowned dissident author Yu Jie and Wang Yi, author of China’s most read dissident blog.
The event scheduled for Tuesday at the Hudson Institute has been sponsored Freedom House, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Becket Fund, National Association of Evangelicals, and the Institute on Religion and Public Policy.
Opening remarks will be made by Deputy Assistant Secretary of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, James R. Keith, of the Hudson Institute.