Mission: Possible 3
Pray for a 'new China'
Twenty years after the Chinese government's People's Liberation Army opened fire on thousands of unarmed student protestors and allowed armored tanks to roll over the crowds, killing hundreds, Christians are praying for a “new” China that will respect democracy and religious freedom.
Although the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989 evokes painful memories, Chinese Christians credit it with the growth of the underground church movement, which some estimate to have as many as 80 million members.
Prior to the massacre, during which thousands of students participating in a 50-day protest for democracy were killed, Christianity had spread slowly throughout the countryside mostly among uneducated people.
“Following the massacre, many educated people abandoned their trust in the Communist system and searched for other answers,” Paul Hattaway, the director of Asia Harvest, told Charisma magazine. (Asia Harvest supports China's underground church movement.)
“This led to thousands of university students accepting Christ in the months following the massacre. Others who had not been touched by the Gospel opened their hearts to the message of salvation. Today there are countless Christians in China among university graduates, professors, businessmen and women, entrepreneurs.”
Bob Fu, founder of China Aid, a Texas-based ministry that advocates for religious liberty in China, said the Chinese Christian population has gained 20 times the number of followers.
“When the so-called 'people's' army started shooting its own people then that dream and that anticipation (of a perfect country and government) was broken. So many said we gain heaven after losing earth, and when hundreds of (weapon)less and peaceful (people) were killed by its own government, how much hope can you have for a temporary system structure or party without looking up to heaven to seek God's help and the renewal in Christ Jesus?”
David Aikman, former Beijing bureau chief for Time magazine and author of Jesus in Beijing, said Tiananmen Square taught the Chinese church that its hope is in God, not government, and that awareness is now one of its strengths.
“A change of political institution is not enough to get a country moving in the right direction,” Aikman said. “You have to have a moral revolution at the heart of it, and I think that's a very healthy sign.”
Pray for China – Turmoil in Tibet
“The 10th of March is the 50-year anniversary for their leader going into exile,” one of our friends stated from inside the country in early March, “so some people are scared that there will be riots and stuff again this year.”
In the game of semantics, China called March 10, 2009 the 50th anniversary of “the liberation of Tibet from serfdom.” Tibetans refer to it as an invasion, a time when China took over Tibet and eventually forced its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to flee into exile.
China sent thousands of troops to Tibetan areas in the western part of the country to guard against a repeat of March 2008, when anti-Chinese riots occurred in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and other cities. The target of Tibetan violence: Han Chinese, whom the government moved into Tibetan areas as part of its ethnic-cleansing plan (in which a Chinese man is paid to marry a Tibetan woman so the next generation will be Chinese, not Tibetan).
China’s Tibetan region consists largely of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region and several bordering provinces (Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan) that have large Tibetan populations.
Although it is called the “Tibet Autonomous Region,” there is little autonomy. China rules, much as it has for the past 50 years. And, as The New York Times reported in mid-March 2009, Tibet is “one of the most delicate issues in the eyes of the Chinese government.” That is one reason why so few eyes from the outside are permitted to see what is going on in Tibet. Since the March 2008 uprising, “the government has, for months at a time, kept foreigners from entering any Tibetan area,” according to one Times reporter who was evicted from western China.
It was only months after the communists gained control of China, in 1949, that Mao Zedong’s so-called “Peoples” government asserted its presence in Tibet. For 10 years, China permitted traditional Tibetan society – with its lords and manorial estates – to function virtually unchanged, despite sending 20,000 People’s Liberation Army troops to Tibet. China built highways to Lhasa, and beyond (to the borders of Nepal, India, and Pakistan).
In 1959, China’s military cracked down on rebels in Tibet, which led to the “Lhasa Uprising” and full-scale resistance throughout the country. Countless temples were destroyed, monks and nuns persecuted, and many people killed. Fearing the Dalai Lama would be captured, Tibetans – reportedly with the help of the CIA – spirited their religious leader to India. He remains in exile today.
The Dalai Lama has sought autonomy for his people, while other Tibetans want a return of their sovereign country.
In March 2009, China released a series of papers on how its rule created a safer and more prosperous Tibet. Beijing has also repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama of advocating independence for Tibet.
But in Tibetan areas, where there remains a great deal of support for the Dalai Lama, there are frequent reports of small uprisings.
- On March 21, nearly 100 people, most of them monks from the Ragya Monastery, were arrested in a Tibetan area of Qinghai after a crowd attacked a police station there, according to the state-controlled media. The riot was the latest and biggest skirmish this month between ethnic Tibetans and Chinese authorities and comes as Tibet and adjoining areas face growing tensions amid a series of historically delicate anniversaries.
- On March 16, a bomb was set off in a government building in a Tibetan part of western China’s Sichuan Province.
- On March 9, around the time of the anniversary, minor explosions in a Tibetan part of Qinghai damaged a police car and a fire truck.
During the week of March 16, the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, India, released a seven-minute video. It was being shown on YouTube and claims to show Chinese police officers brutally beating Tibetans last March following the riots in Lhasa. There was no independent confirmation that the footage is authentic. But China immediately blocked its people from seeing YouTube over the Internet.
China’s March 2009 lockdown is another episode in a long history of governing authorities trying to keep the mountain kingdom closed to the outside world. In the 19th century, Tibetan officials closed the country to foreigners; an isolation that spurred explorers, Christian missionaries, and Buddhist followers to try to get in. Britain invaded in 1904, then tried to keep other foreigners out. The Chinese Communist Party has done the same, leading to what Tibetans consider decades of repression. The Dalai Lama said on the 50th anniversary that Tibet was turned into “hell on earth.” [See “The Word” at right for more on this.]
China leads world in executions: On March 24, Amnesty International released its annual report on the death penalty worldwide. According to Amnesty International, 59 countries still have the death penalty, but only 25 carried out executions in 2007. However, the number of executions nearly doubled from 2007 to 2008 (with at least 2,390 executed in ’08).
With at least 1,718, China was responsible for 72 percent of all executions in 2008, the report stated. After China were Iran (346), Saudi Arabia (102), the United States (37) and Pakistan (36), according to the group.
The Chinese authorities also handed down at least 7,003 new death sentences last year, although the report said the true total of both executions and death sentences “remains shrouded in secrecy.” Some countries, China and North Korea among them, do not disclose the number of executions they carry out. In China’s case, “real figures are undoubtedly higher,” the report stated.
Updated June 8, 2009