"China's Church Crimes," a Commentary by Rosa Davis

May 8, 2007

Author: Rosa Davis

Source: The Guardian


The decision by the Archbishop of Canterbury to defend China in the face of accusations of human rights abuses is not only a travesty, but could result in further occurrences as a result of his words. Dr Rowan Williams' assertion that "there is not systematic persecution of Christians, apart from certain sects" tacitly permits the Chinese government to continue in their practices and attitudes towards organised religion. He acknowledged that human rights abuses could be arbitrary in the country, but insisted that it was not systematic.

The People's Republic of China has always had a strong stance against organised religion, and a history of discouraging such beliefs and practices. The Communist party has said that religion is incompatible with membership of the party. The state recognises five religions - Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism. Yet the government tries to control the practice of these religions and has outlawed any other type of religious or spiritual worship.

In 2005, the Chinese government set out a number of regulations that ostensibly allowed for greater freedom of religion. These regulations have been shown to be a sham, through both their wording and application.

The only Christian sects recognised by the Chinese government are Catholicism and Protestantism. The Catholic church has had an underground presence in China throughout the Communist rule, with prayers and teachings regularly interrupted by the police and members of the church kidnapped and detained. China and the Vatican had an informal dialogue during 2005 during which two new bishops were appointed. Simultaneously there were a number of underground Catholic clergy targeted and detained by the Chinese authorities. Large gatherings of Catholics continued to be disrupted by government officials and agents acting on its behalf, congregants were detained and other abuses occurred. In one headline-grabbing case, a number of nuns in Xi'an were severely beaten and injured while attempting to protect Catholic church buildings from demolition by the state.