Lest we forget, China is a communist country in Asia, very different in history and culture from North America. One would think that such a statement would be blatantly obvious to all and therefore unnecessary, but it needs repeated highlighting. Here in North America I meet many who are taken by the Chinese propaganda machine into thinking that China is almost as advanced as North America, that we share the same ideals and we are all humans, so we must be very similar. An article in the Toronto Star outlining the persecution of unregistered religions brings this contrast to the fore. China is very different and should be treated as such.
On the surface, unregistered religions are religions. They are very benign. People share a belief system, meet and pray together, mind their own business and carry on with life. It’s really no big deal here in North America. We have lots of people gatherings that do just that, that range from religion to sports to volunteer organizations.
There is supposed freedom of religion in China, but only for those religions that are “registered”. Registration requires the head of the church to acknowledge that the head of their Church resides in Beijing, and not where ever the worldwide head happens to reside. As such for example the head of the Roman Catholic Church in China resides in Beijing and not the Vatican. It matters little what happens in the rest of the world. In China all roads lead to Beijing.
Religions that are not registered or refuse to be registered are illegal and thus subject to prosecution. In China this could well mean the local authorities will gather a gang of thugs and beat the living daylight out of you, and jail you with hard labour for a couple of years. While China’s police may act illegally under Chinese law, this means very little when the gang of thugs are commissioned by the local Communist Party. You should expect the worst. These rules are very old and unchanged for at least 20 years. We do not do this in North America. Again it merits repeating that China is communist country and thus plays by their own rules.
Local crackdowns have much to do with retaining power for the Communist Party of China (CPC). If whatever group, religious or not, has the ability to gather enough people, to organize, to raise money and to stand independent of the CPC, in China they will be destroyed. In the recent past even something as innocuous as English Corner, where people that study English can gather and talk to a foreigner, has been banned. Those who persisted are arrested.
For a religion to advertise their service, to build a large fund, buy land and build a large building, especially one that is larger than the office of the local Communist Party, is flying way above the radar. These people should have known or did know that the large red hammer was about to smash them into dust.
For those who live in China, or are thinking about going to China, these ideas of control are something to keep in mind. No group of size who can organize people can exist without the blessing of the CPC. Those who attempt to do this will be destroyed.
It is unfortunate that people who practice religion in China are persecuted for their beliefs. North Americans who are stoutly religious will be up in arms over the stomping of bible readers. It really is not that China hates religion. It is not that personal. Substitute a soccer league for a religious group and the reaction from the Communist Party of China would be the same. All roads in Chinese life must lead to Beijing. Always.