China has already used it’s economic clout to intimidate many countries to boycott the Nobel Prize cermony that honors their poet Liu Xiaobo.
This boycott has gotten them criticism from some human rights groups, including those in our Philippines.
The ability and willingness of China to use it’s economic clout for political purposes is a very important story. Leftists who rejoice in the declining influence of American power, seeing it as a way for the Philippines to be a stronger and independent nation, might want to contemplate what will happen in reality. For example, the Philippines and VietNam are worried about China’s move to take over the Spratlys islands region, but it goes further than that.
Chinese imports underprice our local produce and prevent local industries from being economically viable, and a lot of folks suspect Chinese bribes enable out politicians to get rich on business deals. So the economic clout of China is suspected as being the reason for the absence of our ambassador at the Peace Prize ceremony despite the Philippine government insisting that their “non attendence” was due to “a scheduling conflict”..
The ambassadors of many countries avoided the ceremony for “various reasons”, but a lot of human rights organizations are sceptical , partly because it shows many countries run by dictatorships will back another dictatorship against a dissedent, and partly because few countries are as candid as Serbia who willing to come out and admit their failure to attend the ceremony was due to China’s bullying (although it should be noted that Serbia, under pressure from the European Union, changed it’s mind).
During all of this, the world is noticing the Chinese crackdown on the supporters of Liu, but there is a lot less notice about a more troubling clampdown on Catholics and Protestants in that country.
For years, the Catholic church in China has been in two parts: one backing the Vatican (and persecuted), and a second under the authority of the government. In the last few years, the Vatican has been trying to merge the two groups by asking that China get their permission before appointing new bishops. This was done for awhile, but last week, a bishop was appointed without Vatican approval. This means that the government will again appoint government lackies to tell Catholics what to believe, and in effect makes the church a puppet ofÂ government policies.
…. “I think they really cannot understand what freedom of religion means, that there is something in the conscience, in the awareness of the person which doesn’t belong to the party or the state, but belongs only to God,” Fr. Cevellera said.
Catholics in China, he explained, have â€œfreedom of worship, but not freedom of religion.â€ True freedom of religion would mean that the Church would have the power to govern itself without interference from government officials.
Again, there are government sponsored Protestant churches in China, but in recent years there has been a huge upswing in conversions to Christianity, not by outsiders but from one lay person to another.
A Time Magazine article about religion in China notes:
Estimates vary, but some experts say Christians make up 5% of China’s population, or 65 million believers. And thousands more are converting every day, the vast majority through unofficial “house” churches like the one that sparked the clash in Hangzhou.
These “house churches” are essentially copying how the Christians of the catecomb era met: believers will meet in a house to study the bible and worship.Â
Now these churches have been labled a “cult” and some of the better known church leaders have been arrested.
This is reminiscent of the way that the Chinese government persecuted the Falun Gong movement, and bodes ill for religious believers of any faith in China.
First they came for the FalunGong, then they came for the Catholics, and now they come for the Protestants?
So while the American mainstream media is worried about who is dancing with the stars, China is clamping down on their dissedent leaders, and Christian believers in China are facing a new persecution, with little or no outcry by the western media.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She writes about human rights at Makaipablog