The Laogai Research Foundation’s Italian branch has published a new book on the persecution of Chinese Catholics.
Below is a translation of LRF Italia’s press release:
The Plight of Catholics in China: Arrests, Violence and Abuse of Clergy and Laity of the Catholic Church
The Oppression of Catholics in China Since 1949
Chinese Communism, atheist, materialist, and totalitarian by nature, values the State above all else, designing everything in order to support the absolute power of the Communist Party (CCP), which subsists solely in the State apparatus. Whoever refuses to place the State before all else is considered a potential danger to the regime, something worse than the common criminal. The pretense of Communist ideology is to play the role of a true religion, so much that the Party cannot tolerate any other object of veneration besides itself, the only and true god in China: the State and the Party that represents it. The persecution of Catholics in China began in 1949 and continues today.
The 2008 Olympic Games up to the present
The Olympics in August 2008 served primarily to let the PRC’s leaders show the world a new China in totally contrast to the past, an ultra-modern China on a par with every other country. For this reason the regime ensured that no discord of any kind occurred during that period, including anything related to religious freedom. However, “petitioners” continued to be arrested and forcibly interned in psychiatric hospitals, as they brought cases of abuse to Beijing, according to the ancient custom of the Chinese emperors. During the Olympics the government kept several bishops and priests of the underground Church under house arrest. Public security police coerced other priests into forced “vacations”, while warning the faithful of the underground Church not to meet during the period of the Games, for “security reasons”. The authorities also banned Christians from carrying more than one Bible at any time, because of the ban on disseminating religious “propaganda,” considered dangerous and listed beside the item “explosive weapons.”
On the solemnity of the Assumption on August 15th, one of the most beloved holidays in the Chinese Church, in the middle of the Olympic Games, at least 1000 underground Catholics defied the police ban and “invaded” the Church of Wuqiu to celebrate Mass, alongside the house where their bishop, Monsignor Jia, had been under house arrest. The authorities had to put on a good face, letting them celebrate the Mass.
Very different was Beijing’s attitude during the Games in the Olympic village that reserved for foreigners. An entire area was devoted to spirituality and prayer, with different halls for Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus. Great attention was also paid to the quality of food offered according to different religious faiths: vegetarian, halal, kosher. All this was done only in the well-guarded Olympic village, which only registered or accompanied persons could enter. This liberality is stopped just after the Olympics. In rare meetings with foreign priests, “security concerns” seemed to be high on the government’s list of priorities, even though no Christian had ever been charged with violence against the nation. Priests may celebrate religious services in foreign embassies, but at their entrances the police still register and monitor the passports of all the faithful.
Since the Olympics nothing has changed in China, and the persecution of Catholics continues. In March 2009, two thugs with knives attacked a priest who had been called by his mayor to discuss land expropriated from the Church. The beating took place right in the office of the municipal authority. Father Francis Gao Jinli, 39, a priest of the Diocese of Fengxiang (Shaanxi), was admitted to the hospital in Baoji for the beating he received, and in still under the control of the police who continue to interrogate him. Especially in Hebei, the province near Beijing with the greatest concentration of Catholics, underground communities are under continuous pressure and are forbidden to meet for Mass. A priest in Donglu, Father Paul Ma, 55, was recently arrested from recently celebrating the Eucharist with a few underground faithful. The Christian community fears that his heart problems will remained untreated in prison.
At the end of March of the same year, coinciding with the plenary meeting of the Vatican Commission on the Church in China, Bishop Jia Zhiguo, 74, was again arrested. Five policemen and two cars arrived at the bishop’s house and took him to an undisclosed location. Bishop Jia suffers from various ailments due to past imprisonments and to his age; the faithful of the diocese are concerned that this new sequestration may endanger his life. This latest arrest strikes at the heart of efforts by the Vatican to reconcile the Patriotic and underground Churches, as long as the desire persists for union between the bishops of both. Months ago Bishop Zhang Taoran of Shijiazhuang (Hebei), a diocese of the Patriotic Church, reconciled with the Holy See, and on the recommendation of the Vatican agreed to collaborate with Bishop Jia Zhiguo, becoming his auxiliary bishop.
During the “Dialogue on Human Rights in China” between China and the United Nations in Geneva in February this year, several countries have asked China to permit religious freedom, including Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. However, despite international pressure and the goodwill of the Holy See, the persecution of Catholics in China continues.
The Laogai Research Foundation Italy Fund has published a book on the persecution of Catholics in China as a tribute to the Catholic Church in China. After a brief overview of Chinese history before and after Mao Zedong, the book focuses on today’s complex reality, in light of recent papal teaching on the issue. On the one hand shows the maternal care and concern of Holy See for its Chinese children, but on the other pays tribute to innumerable “souls of those who were slain for the word of God and the witness they have made” (Revelations 6:9). In particular, it is a tribute to the Christian martyrs in China today, where fundamental human rights are denied, where Catholics and others who displease the regime disappear into the Laogai for years without due process. Bishops, priests and lay people are still persecuted, imprisoned and oppressed, while the West unwittingly or connivingly continues to do trade with the Chinese dragon, caring only for maximum profit.
On June 25th, at 7:00 pm, the book “La persecuzione dei cattolici in Cina” will be presented at L’Universale, Libreria Galleria delle Arti, via F. Caracciolo 12 Roma, with the speakers Francesca Romana Poleggi, professor and curator of the volume; Gianluigi Indri, journalist for GiornaleRadio; and Pier Paolo Saleri of the Movimento Cristiano dei Lavoratori. Click here to purchase!
For more information in Italian on religious persecution in China, click the links at the bottom of Laogai Italia’s press release.
Brief History of the Persecution of Catholics by the People’s Republic of China
After the CCP founded the PRC in 1949, foreign missionaries were expelled from mainland China one after another. In May of 1950, Wu Yaozong, a representative of the Christian faith, met three times with Zhou Enlai. With one sentence, Wu set the tone for Christianity in Communist China – linking missionaries with imperialist aggression. He put forth three suggestions: first, a patriotic anti-Western imperialist movement should be fostered within the church; second, in new China, Christianity should be restrained and should not be preached openly on the street; third, churches should be independent and autonomous, cutting off any ties with Western imperialist nations, thus establishing China’s “self-governing, self-supporting, self-propagating” church. Wu Yaozong and other Christian leaders subsequently published the “Three-Self Declaration”, which proclaimed that “Chinese Christian churches and organizations completely support and uphold the new China,” and that they would, “under the leadership of the Communist Party, oppose Western imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism.” In 1951, the Three-Self Innovation Preparatory Committee was established and in 1954, the “Three-Self” patriotic movement began. Since then, all believers must register with one of the “patriotic associations” that supervise the five religions recognized by the state – Daoism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. Each associations limits its religion’s number of converts and properties, forbids contact with foreign groups, trains and censors clergy, and injects statist propaganda into its scripture and preaching.
Chinese Catholics were required to establish their own “Three-Self” Patriotic Church and to join the movement. Several Catholic leaders urged their followers to remain faithful to Roman Catholicism. This included Kung Pin-mei (龔品梅), who had just been installed as the first ethnically Chinese bishop of the Diocese of Shanghai, as well as a number of Shanghai priests. They did not permit believers to participate in Communist political campaigns, the atheist ideology of which was contrary to Catholic doctrine. In particular, they resisted the new Chinese government’s movement to “reform” the Catholic Church, refusing to engage the Church in the “anti-Western imperialist movement” and did not participate in the “Chinese Catholic Patriotic Church” or any related organizations. All of them were later arrested and sentenced, some of whom died in prison.
Current State of Religious Freedom in the PRC
During the Cultural Revolution, the Three-Self Patriotic Church ceased all activities, but resumed again after Mao’s death. Even with the reopening of churches and temples in 1980, and the ensuing proliferation of religious activity in China, it is still illegal to be Roman Catholic in China. Only Catholicism under the watchful eye of the Catholic Patriotic Association is legal. These “patriotic” Catholics are permitted to pray for the Pope and to enact most directives that Rome issues, but are forbidden contact with the Vatican and the worldwide communion of bishops and faithful. The “Three-self” Patriotic Church is subject to direct supervision by the National Bureau of Religious Affairs. These so-called churches are the only ones recognized by the CCP and the PRC.
The officially atheist Chinese Communist Party forbids its members from holding religion. For the rest of the population, the constitution protects only what it calls “normal religious activity,” that is, within government-sanctioned places of worship. Such state interference has prompted the rapid grouth of underground communities, including Protestant house churches, Roman Catholics faithful to the Pope, and Falun Gong practitioners. Scores of independent Catholic churches that do not belong to the Three-Self Church exist illegaly inside China. These churches are known collectively as “house churches” or “underground churches” and have far more followers than the Three-Self Church, yet they have long been monitored by the government and even destroyed. Police harassment, imprisonment, torture, and forced conversion await such unregistered groups that grow too strong or vocal, on the charge of “illegal religious activities” or “disrupting social stability.” Uyghur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists faithful to the Dalai Lama particularly face repression, as the Chinese government equates their religions with ethnic independence movements and terrorism.
The CCP fears any voice in China with organization, moral authority, and appeal that rivals its own, particularly one linked with foreign countries. Fear that its Catholic citizens may follow their clergy or the Pope instead of the State on issues of conscience is the only reason that the State has restricted the official Roman Catholic Church’s activity within its territory. The Chinese Patriotic Church has been defanged so it can never challenge the state’s capital punishment (the highest in the world), forced abortion and sterilization (a necessity of its one-child policy), lack of freedom of information, of political freedom and of democracy. China’s 3-5 million judicially-sentenced prisoners are funneled through a thousand forced-labor prison camps (called the Laogai), where backbreaking work and nonstop study of Communism brainwash them out of religions including Catholicism. China’s Catholic opposition leaders have all entered this vast and brutal prison system, and many have been tortured there until death for refusing to renounce their faith. It is safe to say that the People’s Republic of China, the world’s toy factory, has also produced generations of Catholic martyrs.