Beijing urged to relax anti-Church crackdown
Church leaders and academics call for more respect for religious freedom
Picture: The Telegraph
- Tom Phillips for The Telegraph
- May 15, 2014
China must guarantee its citizens’ rights to freedom of religious belief and expression, a coalition of lawyers, religious leaders and academics have told Beijing as church demolitions and the arrests of Christians stoke fears of a nationwide “anti-church” campaign.
“Religious freedom is a basic and core value of modern nations and societies,” argued the “Purdue Consensus on Religious Freedom” which was signed by more than 50 people, including some of China’s foremost rights lawyers, underground church leaders and intellectuals.
All Chinese citizens had the responsibility "to respect, to protect, and to fight for” religious freedom, the statement added.
The consensus was published on Wednesday following a three-day summit at Purdue University in the United States where activists and religious leaders discussed their concerns over religious freedom in China.
High on the meeting’s agenda was the demolition of churches in the eastern province of Zhejiang and the recent detentions of Christians in Beijing and Guizhou province in southwest China.
Chinese citizens should have the freedom “to practice their faith, to worship together, to establish religious venues, to use religious symbols, to publish religious books, and to disseminate religious faith,” the consensus said.
Missionary work is currently illegal in China while Beijing’s State Administration for Religious Affairs tightly controls the construction and administration of places of worship.
The statement comes at a time of growing pessimism over the Communist Party’s handling of religious matters.
Many Christians fear Beijing is planning a nationwide campaign to slow the growth of their community, which now counts tens of millions of members.
Those concerns have been fuelled by the total or partial demolition of at least half a dozen churches in Zhejiang province and a spate of detentions across China. Tan Jianhua and Zhang Yuncheng, two members of Beijing’s Shouwang church, have been in custody since last Sunday on charges of “disturbing public order”, said Jin Tianming, a church leader.
Beijing also faces criticism over what some describe as its heavy-handed treatment of Muslims in the far western province of Xinjiang.
Source: The Telegraph