By Jerome A. Cohen
China Change has just released a remarkable interview with “Pastor L.” The interview not only updates us about the plight of Christianity in an important area of China but also offers a persuasive analysis of what underlies the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of religions generally. Indeed, it demonstrates the similarities between the CCP’s persecution of religions and its systematic attacks on all freedoms of expression, media, teaching, research and publication, and the legal profession to which victims of suppression vainly turn for protection against an arbitrary and repressive state. This interview deserves widespread dissemination. One need not be a religious person – and I am not – to appreciate its significance.
The interview does prompt a few immediate thoughts. It consistently refers to “Christianity” without distinguishing among the varieties of organized believers who have earned that designation. Readers who are interested in how many of the affected church groups are “Protestants” of one kind or other and how many are “Catholic” can find more information in the first interview China Change released here.
The interview’s account of how local business people, a formidably successful group, have helped to spread the faith during their business trips throughout China evokes thoughts of Max Weber and the connections between capitalism and religions.
It also offers the pathetic story of how Beijing lawyer Zhang Kai, one of several counsel seeking to defend the churches but secretly detained like many of his clients, has been coerced, like them, to issue a jailhouse statement claiming that he no longer wants the help of defense lawyers. This is a vivid illustration of the “rule of law” in practice, as distinguished from the speeches of Xi Jinping, the preaching of the Party plenums and the reformist norms of the National People’s Congress and the Supreme People’s Court. Church believers could render further service by doing empirical studies of the many cases involving interaction of the legal system with their daily lives.
I look forward to further reports from the estimable “Pastor L” and China Change.