After Sri Lanka attacks, media should look at China
(COMMENTARY) The horrendous Easter massacre in Sri Lanka dominates the current news cycle, with good cause.
By coincidence, only weeks ago I surveyed the worldwide phenomenon of terror, murder and persecution against Christians. Looking ahead, the media might prepare features on a long-running and elaborate government effort aimed at all religions, with this upcoming peg: the 70th anniversary of Mao’s October 1 proclamation of the People’s Republic of China.
Michael Meyer, author of “The Road to Sleeping Dragon” and other books on China, reminds us in a Wall Street Journal op-ed (behind pay wall) about three religious anniversaries in 2019. It is 10 years since deadly riots in Xinjiang province provoked a major crackdown against Muslims; 20 years since the party launched its effort to liquidate the Fulan Gong movement; and 60 years since Tibet’s young Dalai Lama fled Chinese occupiers’ harassment of Buddhists. All three campaigns persist.
As for Christianity, the regime fears the increasing numbers of converts and continually applies counter-measures. In north central China, for example, troops last year demolished the Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen, spiritual home for 50,000 evangelicals, just weeks after a Catholic church was destroyed in Xian city. Under Communist Party boss Xi Jinping’s policy of severe social control, less severe damage has been inflicted on at least 1,500 church buildings.
The most recent U.S. Department of State survey on global religious freedom notes that China recognizes only five “patriotic” associations that cover Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam. All gatherings are required to register with the atheistic regime – which believers understandably resist – or risk criminal penalties. “There continue to be reports the government tortured, physically abused, arrested, detained, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups,” State says.
For China roundups, writers might ask who is the most important figure in the world’s largest nation in terms of religion. Judging from a lengthy and first-rate personality piece by Chun Han Wong of the Journal’s Beijing bureau (also pay-walled) that looks to be Chen Quanguo, 63, a member of the national legislature and a key innovator in anti-religion techniques.
The headline dubbed him “China’s Repression Maestro,” and the accompanying article said he is “setting the tone for the country’s shift toward harsher, technology-driven authoritarian rule.”
Remarkably, Chen is now hard at work harassing his fourth religion. He started as the youngest-ever chieftain in his native Henan province, where he targeted Christians and then did his best to snuff out Fulan Gong, a popular spiritual discipline whose exiles sponsor those Shen Yun extravaganzas so ubiquitous across America.
He next turned up as party leader in Tibet in 2011. There he developed the tactic of a massive increase in police stations, which are turned into all-purpose community centers and operate with high-tech equipment to maintain a close watch on each citizen. To assimilate the population, he replaced the Tibetan language with Chinese instruction in schools, and dispatched untold thousands of Buddhists to re-education camps.
As the administrator over restive Xinjiang province since 2016, he has expanded those tactics, adding nearly 5,000 new-style police stations, doubling the security budget, and building a massive system of supposed “vocational training” camps that have sought to re-educate more than a million ethnic Uighurs as Chinese patriots, urging them to renounce their Muslim faith. The Journal reports that the overlords in Beijing are pleased as these measures spread to other provinces. Neighboring Russia is showing interest.
Chen Guanguo is obviously a man the media need to be watching.