After the Baptist World Alliance issued a press release praising the freedom to worship in China seen by a BWA Friendship Tour, persecution watchdogs such as the Voice of the Martyrs and the China Aid Association quickly released their response to the release, revealing a different picture, as painted by the countless number of Chinese Christians who have been repressed by China’s communist government.
Last Friday, the Baptist World Alliance issued a press release extolling the freedom to worship seen by a BWA Friendship Tour to China after their General Council meeting in Seoul. While briefly acknowledging that China does not have "the Western understanding of religious freedom which includes witness beyond the walls of the church building," the remainder of the article sings the praises of the China Christian Council and the seminary in Nanjing, which the majority of Chinese Christians see as tools of China's communist regime, according to the Voice of the Martyrs. In particular, the news release expresses their delight in being able to view in Hong Kong the "Exhibition of the History of the Bible in China" sponsored by the China Christian Council.
VOM spokesman, Glenn Penner, commented, "It is tragic to see how these well-meaning people were naively used by the Communist government in an attempt to rehabilitate China's flagging public image as one of the most egregious religious rights violators in the world. One would think that Christians would have learned long ago from experience in the Soviet Union that you just cannot trust what government sanctioned religious organizations show and tell you."
Responding to the news report, Bob Fu, President of China Aid Association and China analyst for The Voice of the Martyrs commented:
"Ironically when the date of the Exhibition started on August 6, more than 100 house church Christian leaders were arrested in Henan and many more of their relatives were arrested the second day. Three Christian activists were sentenced to three years in prison on the same day as well.
"Instead of changing its repressive religious policy and bad behavior, the Chinese government and its 'patriotic religious' subordinates try to put blame on the western media and so-called 'anti-China' forces for its negative image. Who creates these images when three crying children were arrested along with their parents pastor Zhang Xiaofang and Xiang Zhi with 100 others were arrested by over 200 military police on August 6, at Mu Xian Zhang Village, Tongxu County, Kaifeng city, Henan province? Who creates these images when at least six relatives of the arrested received official criminal detention notice on August 7 that their loved ones were 'Evil Cult' leaders? Who creates these images when Ms. Ru Xifeng and Ms. Ma Na, the mother of arrested pastor Xu Feng and the wife of arrested pastor Han Quanshui respectively were taken away from their houses by police on August 8, 2004.
"It's a good thing to exhibit and auction a piece of Imperial Bible for the SARS epidemic researchers (as was done at the Exhibit). However, questions regarding the record of history should be answered. Before the last Imperial dynasty disappeared, there were recorded over 400 churches in Beijing and Shanghai. Now, there are barely thirty churches left for a population of over 30 million. Where have the rest gone? Where was Bishop KH Ting, Vice President of the National Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference when his close allies and comrades were busy covering-up when SARS erupted and lives were lost in Beijing?
"It's time to acknowledge this is not about PR campaign but it is about
truths and lies."
VOM reports that there are more Christians in prison in China than any other country in the world, and the only legal churches are those strictly controlled by the government of China. Those who do not wish to follow government policies on religious practice and beliefs must meet in homes and risk being labeled as "evil cults" which can result in closing down the church, confiscation of property, and charges against the leadership, often resulting in torture, imprisonment and death.
Despite the opposition, the church in China is growing rapidly; something the government is fighting hard to contain, says VOM. It is estimated that three thousand Chinese come to Christ each day. Approximately eighty percent of China's Christians meet in the illegal house churches. One estimate suggests that six percent of China's population of over one billion is Christian.