Relaymedia

ChinaAid: China's Leadership Change Could Impact Religious Freedom and Rule of Law

( [email protected] ) Mar 05, 2013 04:07 AM EST
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao exits the public stage with three bows, ending his ten-year reign with President Hu Jintao. The transition of power to new government leadership may mean taking "another step on the road to reform” – abiding by rule of law and ending “stability maintenance” measures, reported a China-focused persecution watchdog.
Chinese Christians sang hymns at St. Paul's Church in Nanjing. Despite continued Government repression of unregistered, illegal congregations, Protestantism, with millions of adherents, is gaining ground rapidly as China undergoes a strong religious revival. New York Times

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao exits the public stage with three bows, ending his ten-year reign with President Hu Jintao. The transition of power to new government leadership may mean taking "another step on the road to reform” – abiding by rule of law and ending “stability maintenance” measures, reported a China-focused persecution watchdog.

Texas-based China Aid released its 2012 annual report on “Chinese Government Persecution of Christians & Churches in Mainland China.” The report cited a secret document issued in September 2011 that Chinese government intends to eradicate house churches.

Based upon information collected in 2012, the China-focused persecution watchdog cited 132 persecution cases involving 4,919 people. The number of people sentenced jumped 125 percent. Incidences of persecution rose 41.9 percent.

It stated that four different measures were used: forcibly banning and sealing up churches, pressuring churches to join the official “Three-Self” church system, detaining church leaders and sending them to labor camps on the pretext of “suspicion of organizing and using a cult to undermine law enforcement,” and strictly restricting the spread of Christian faith among students.

In its conclusion, the report said that the Hu-Wen central government adhered to an ultra-leftist ideology, which schemed to completely eradicate house churches. The persecution towards house churches and church leaders increased sharply in 2012.

Less than six months into the so-called ten-year plan to eradicate house churches, a power struggle erupted. An internal factional conflict in Bo Xilai-Wang Lijun alliance resulted in the change in power structure and purge of ultra-leftist political forces.

Last November, contrary to the traditions of outgoing leaders clinging to power, Hu Jintao relinquished his command of the Chinese military during the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. This act cleared the way for Xi to rule unencumbered.

Chinese Christians

ChinaAid explained the impact of these events on religious freedom and rule of law in China. Around the time of National Congress, incidences of persecution dropped significantly. The ministry proposed two possible causes: partial victory of protests by the public over the regime’s tyrannical “stability maintenance” policies and “Great China dream” of national resurgence advocated by Xi Jinping’s government; or urgent need for social stability amid persisting shockwaves from conflicts arising from the handover of power.

The report’s overall analysis said that the new government is “unlikely” to digress from the party’s principles, but could “take another step on the road to reform in the post-Deng Xiaoping-Jiang Zemin era. Two important signs are new leadership abiding by rule of law and dismantling the Domestic Security Protection apparatus.

“With regard to this, ChinaAid is cautiously optimistic,” the report said. The facts in 2013 will provide a clearer answer to these speculations.