News from China’s Church – Vol. 2 No. 1

Christian Radio Broadcasts into China

Mainland Chinese listeners sent more than 16,000 letters last year to a Christian ministry broadcasting radio programs into China. The programs share the good news about Jesus and help Christians learn more about the Bible. One of the programs, “Pursuit of Truth,” is produced specifically for young intellectuals in China and answers questions such as “How can scientists believe in a non-material realm?” “Is there really a God?” “How can I know the Bible is reliable?” “Isn’t Christianity a Western religion?” and “Doesn’t Marxism have the same goals as Christianity?”

A medical student wrote the producer of the radio programs, “I am a medical student. For the past eight years I have listened to your broadcasts. Spectacular changes happened. I repented of my sins and felt peace. Through you, God has called me to be His child.”

The program features contemporary Gospel music, personal testimonies, and Bible studies that help listeners find biblical answers to their questions.

“Voice of Your Helpful Friend” (Yi You) can be heard in Beijing and Shanghai at 1566 khz on the radio dial. (OMF)

Chinese Students Open to Gospel

“There is a spiritual vacuum among Chinese students,” said the American director of a U.S. organization that sends English teachers to teach in China. “The students are concerned about the deeper issues of life. They are very interested in spiritual things.”

After several visits with an instructor, one student admitted he needed “something to believe in.” The young man then made a profession of faith in Christ. Another student convert started a Bible study in her home that eventually blossomed into a 400-member unregistered church. It generated eight more churches.

The organization’s director said he hopes students will continue to spread the Gospel. “We want to see the Chinese ministering to the Chinese,” he said. “We don’t want to build an American institution here.”

The Chinese government knows that many English teachers in China are Christians, yet most officials have shown respect for their integrity and moral character. (Charisma)

MFN Affects Christians

Chinese authorities released six religious prisoners in mid-May, just weeks before President Bill Clinton was scheduled to make a final decision on whether to renew trade benefits to China. However, days after Clinton announced that the benefits would be renewed, Beijing authorities detained six other Christians, apparently for engaging in underground religious activities.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry representative has rejected claims that the newly released church members were tortured while in detention, and has accused Amnesty International, an international human rights organization, of being “deeply biased against China.”

While the release of the six church members was welcomed, religious rights groups such as the Washington-based Puebla Institute say China’s treatment of individuals belonging to unregistered churches has deteriorated over the past year. (NNI)

Bibles in Government Bookstores?

Bibles are not for sale at the Xinhua state-owned bookstores, but the situation may change soon, according to Dr. Philip Wickeri of the Amity Foundation Overseas Coordination Office in Hong Kong, which has close ties with China’s official Protestant Church. He reports that the state-owned Commercial Press in Shanghai is currently working on a scholarly edition of the Bible, which will be available for purchase in Xinhua bookstores. No dates were given nor the number of Bibles to be distributed.

Besides the widespread interest in the Bible among non-Christians in China, believers around the country continue to report that the need for Scriptures far exceeds supply. In general, those belonging to official churches have an easier time obtaining Bibles, but even TSPM churches often do not have enough copies. (CNCR)

Christians Imprisoned

According to a new report by the Washington-based Puebla Institute, at least 100 Protestant and Catholic clergy and church leaders are still imprisoned or under house arrest throughout the country. This figure, Puebla admits, is likely to be only a fraction of the true number of Christians in laogai (labor camps).

More than 30 new cases of church workers being sentenced to prison terms of up to three years were recorded in the past year, Puebla said. Most have been detained for distributing Christian literature, holding unregistered Bible training seminars, or meeting with foreigners.

In Henan and Anhui, commonly regarded as the center of the Chinese Protestant house church movement (unregistered churches), PSB officials have arrested hundreds of unregistered church members in the past 12 months. (NNI, Puebla)

Park to Commemorate Missionaries

Hualong International Conservation Park in Beijing plans to erect memorial halls to commemorate four Catholic missionaries who lived in China during the 17th and 18th centuries. The four men to be honored are Matteo Ricci and Giuseppe Castiglione from Italy, Adam Schall from Germany, and Ferdinand Verbiest from Belgium. “In commemorating our friends from the West who made unforgettable contributions in promoting East-West cultural exchanges, we earnestly hope more and more Westerners devoted to the same cause will come to China.” (China Daily)

U.S. and Korean Christian Scientists Meet in Beijing

Approximately 50 American Christian scientists joined 250 Korean scientists at the Beijing Convention Center to discuss trade opportunities and philosophies. Dr. John Morris, a geologist with the Institute for Creation Research, presented a critique of the American education system, which for the most part censors scientific information that disproves evolution. Also on the program was Dr. Shannon Lucid, who is a Ph.D. in biochemistry, an astronaut who flew on four space shuttle flights, and a Christian. (Acts & Facts)

American Pastor Arrested

Dennis Balcombe, an American who pastors Revival Christian Church in Hong Kong, was arrested inside China earlier this year and detained for four days. He was charged with violating China’s laws by associating with Chinese Christians in Fangcheng.

Arrested with Balcombe were two other Americans, two Indonesians, and two Christians from Hong Kong. They were taken to the Fangcheng County PSB office and charged with violating China’s “Regulation Governing the Religious Activities of Foreign Nationals within China,” which had been signed only days earlier by Chinese Premier Li Peng.

All but seven of the Chinese Christians with them escaped. The seven were arrested and taken from the village. (Charisma)

New Religious Regulations

The Chinese government has issued two national regulations restricting religious activity in China. Document No. 144 restricts the religious activities of foreigners. “Foreigners within China’s borders … are not allowed to establish religious organizations, set up religious offices, open places for religious activities or run religious institutes, nor may they develop followers, appoint religious personnel or conduct missionary activities among Chinese citizens.”

Document No. 145 aims to bring all religious activities under state control, especially those of unregistered churches. Security forces have been fining and arresting house church Christians for many years, but it is believed these new regulations give local officials concrete legal measures to exert tighter control over unregistered religious activity. (NNI, CNCR)

Black Market Bibles

Ministries that bring Bibles into China say many of the books end up on the black market where they bring high prices. Chinese claiming to be Christians receive deliveries of Bibles and other spiritual books and sell them to make a profit. A man from Pingdingshan, Henan Province, said he can sell a simplified character New Testament on the black market for RMB 30, while a study Bible with explanatory notes will sell for RMB 500. A similar report came from Anhui Province. Christians in these two provinces have annual incomes averaging RMB 700-800 a year, or about $100. (CNCR)

Antidote for Crime?

The lurch away from communism has left millions of Chinese in search of ways to fill a spiritual void. Religion, the once derided “opium of the people,” is alive again. The fastest-growing religion, according to government and academic sources, appears to be Christianity.

“People are empty,” says Pastor Lin Xiangao, 68, of Guanghzhou, the energetic leader of one of China’s largest and best-known house churches. “After June 4, many young people have been coming to church.”

Many officials in Beijing and the provinces are privately convinced that the growth in Christian belief is a good thing for the country. Says a Beijing researcher: “Crime is much lower in strongly Christian areas than elsewhere.” No matter how Beijing views the phenomenon, people seem determined to put a different kind of meaning back into their lives. (Time)

Teenagers Face Pressure

Teenagers in Shanghai are beginning to experience new psychological pressures as schools gear up to turn out graduates capable of competing in the country’s growing market economy. A survey of 1,200 middle school students in Shanghai found that 28.5% felt they were under excessive pressure at school, while another 28% reported having difficulty building relationships with their teachers and classmates. “At present, I seem to live only for studying and sleeping,” confessed one junior middle school student. (New China News Agency)

New Airports

China will build 12 new airports by the year 2000. Included will be a brand-new international airport in Guangzhou and the overhaul of an additional 10 airports, including the one in Beijing. The project will triple China’s airport capacity to 180 million passengers a year. (Xinhua News Agency)

Environmental Group Approved

China recently approved the nation’s first independent environmental group, “Friend of Nature.” The group, which is expected to have a membership of at least 60 people, receives no funding from the government and has no government-appointed officers on its board.

In the past, China refused to allow such groups, fearing they would foster political activism, but officials appear to have decided that the situation is now serious enough to warrant them. The group’s founder, Liang Congjie, said the aim of the organization is to raise public awareness of environmental issues, which he said is presently very low. (South China Morning Post)

English Fervor

In Beijing, 20,000 children recently participated in the first English contest sponsored by a local private school. The youngest entrant was only five years old, and the oldest was 14, signaling a rising trend in learning English among children. There are more than 1,000 such private schools in Beijing, many of which offer English courses.

“We used to aim at adults and high school students,” said one of the principals, “but now we cater to the needs of younger children, too. (The International Daily)

Sexual Disease on Rise

Venereal disease was virtually eradicated from China 30 years ago. Now, however, there is a sharp rise in sexually-transmitted diseases. The number of people suffering from VD in China doubles every two years. (South China Morning Post)

Population Growth

China’s population will reach 1.2 billion this year — six years ahead of the original prediction. The annual increase is 20 million births, or the equivalent of the population of Taiwan. (South China Morning Post)

US Congressmen Protest MFN Decision

Several members of the U.S. Congress have vowed to fight President Clinton’s renewal of Most Favored Nation status for China. Led by Democrats Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, a group of congressmen are working on legislation that would impose other economic sanctions on China until there is human rights improvement. But even supporters of that plan acknowledge that there has been significant erosion in congressional will to take up the issue again.

Last June, Clinton acknowledged that some “serious human rights abuses continue in China,” but extended MFN without condition and pledged to separate linkage between human rights and trade in the future. (NNI)

Reasons for Divorce

In 1989, 287,000 couples in China were divorced, but by 1993 the number rose to 909,000. Some of the most common reasons for divorce are one of the spouses becoming rich or finding a new, richer partner; arguments about household chores or finances; or one of the spouses going abroad to work or study and simply stopping sending messages home. Arranged marriages in rural areas, which are still quite common, are most likely to end in divorce. (China Daily)

Officials Warn About Environmental Protection

Two leading Chinese government officials in charge of environmental affairs warned about the seriousness of the current environmental situation in China. They reported that throughout the country there has been a pursuit of short-term economic gain at the expense of nature. In many places, environment protection is being sacrificed to attract foreign investment, while in others, hazardous waste from Western countries is being imported in growing quantities as a way to generate revenue. They reported that dumping untreated waste into rivers is common in the countryside, while half of all ground water supplies are polluted in cities. Only a handful of China’s 500 main urban areas meet government air quality standards, two of which were ranked among the top ten worst cities in the world for air pollution.

The officials called for greater efforts to bring the situation under control, and reported that the central government would send out environmental protection teams this year to deal with serious offenders. (South China Morning Post)

Sexual Corruption

In some areas of China, 20% of all corruption cases in the past two years involved sexual misconduct. Many cases entailed the use of young women by corrupt officials to seduce business representatives in order to win contracts and make money. One reason given for the dramatic increase in such cases is that many government officials are indifferent toward the established social order and seem to care only about their own financial gain. Another reason is that legal limits on how officials may use their power are unclear. (The Nineties)

Chinese Await Political Asylum in US

More than one year after they boarded a run-down ship in Fujian Province hoping to illegally enter the United States, more than 200 Chinese remain in U.S. prisons hoping for political asylum. The men and women were all passengers on the ill-fated Golden Venture, which ran aground in New York in June 1993. Many were fleeing China’s one-child and forced birth control policies. Others were political dissidents.

A handful have been granted political asylum by the United States, including one man, a pro-democracy demonstrator who became a Christian inside China and went into hiding. He is now living with an American family in the U.S. (NNI)

Video Game Danger

Video games are “man-eating tigers” devouring China’s school children. “Their contents are not only violent and unhealthy, but also pornographic.” (People’s Daily)

Human Rights Agency Calls for Prisoner Release

The human rights agency Asia Watch said 1993 was “without doubt the worst year for political arrests and trials in China since mid-1990 and the aftermath of the June 4, 1989, crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.” The group issued a 664-page report documenting more than 1,000 persons known or believed to be presently imprisoned because of their political, ethnic, or religious beliefs. Many of them are Christians. (Asia Watch)

Migration to Cities

Millions of China’s peasant farmers are on the move. One million of them are sleeping on the streets of Guangdong province. They are leaving the countryside to find work in the cities, where they hope to take advantage of the economic boom. Conditions in the countryside are difficult; one in four rural dwellers without productive employment.

Some do find work in the cities, but life there is not all they imagine. In Guangzhou, the central railway station has become a vast labor market. Many end up doing the work that city dwellers refuse. Young girls can become prostitutes, while others are forced to beg. And crime in cities like Guangzhou is on the rise.

Still, many long for the “better life” of the cities and it is estimated that 10 million could quit their farms this year.

New Nuclear Plants

The Daya Bay nuclear plant began operation earlier this year 31 miles from Hong Kong. Guangdong authorities have announced they will build at least two more nuclear plants near Hong Kong. Many are concerned that millions of people living in Guangdong and Hong Kong would be seriously affected if there were an accident. (OMF)

Pre-Marital Sex Leads to Abortion

More than one-fifth of abortions in China result from premarital sex, and the government is seriously considering lifting its ban on giving contraceptives to young unmarried people. (OMF)

Private Bookstores Flourish

Private bookstores are multiplying rapidly and are giving their state-owned counterparts stiff competition. According to China Daily, there are now tens of thousands of private bookstores in China, constituting a large percentage of the nation’s bookstores. Anti-government literature and pornography are forbidden.

Bookstores are permitted to sell Bibles as long as they have been printed inside China with government permission at Amity Press in Nanjing. Private bookstores often buy Bibles for RMB 8 at local government-sanctioned churches and resell them for between RMB 25 and RMB 50. Many Bibles sold at private bookstores are bought by non-Christians interested in knowing more about the Christian faith, whether for academic, spiritual, or other reasons. (CNCR)

New Laws Protect Workers

A new labor law, the first since 1949, provides for a minimum wage, a 44-hour work week, and the right of all workers to organize labor unions. The new laws are in response to the recent rise in the number of fires and industrial accidents. “As state enterprises have been reformed and different forms of ownership adopted, labor relations have changed enormously,” said a front-pag editorial accompanying the law. “A flood of new problems and contradictions have arisen.”

The new law gives conditions for companies to lay off workers and insists that all enterprises contribute to a government unemployment insurance fund. All workers should be employed on contracts, enjoy equal treatment regardless of sex or race, have a day off every week, and work no more than 36 hours of overtime a month, with higher pay. (People’s Daily)

Belief in Ghosts and Gods

A survey of more than 1,700 youth found that 4% believe in “ghosts and gods,” 53% do not, 18% believe such beings may exist, and 23% said it was difficult to say clearly. Those most firmly convinced that ghosts and gods are imaginary were Communist cadres in rural townships. Specialists in science and technology were most consistent in expressing a firm belief in these beings. (China Youth)

Confucian Tradition Could Hinder Education

A Canadian professor who has done extensive research on China’s education system warned that the Confucian tradition of elitist education in China could threaten development of a more broad-based system of higher education in the country. A broader system is needed to train the large pool of talent required to build a modern economy and society, said Dr. Ruth Hayhoe.

Dr. Hayhoe, who visited 13 institutions of higher learning in China, learned that universities are asking the central government for permission to increase the number of students allowed to enroll. She said authorities are reluctant to encourage development of private education for fear it will breed corruption. (South China Morning Post)

Coca-Cola in China

Coca-Cola announced plans to invest $150 million in 1994 in five new bottling plants in China. The company expects to have 23 plants in the country by 1996. “People predict confidently, ourselves included, that within a short time China will be the largest soft-drink [market] in Asia,” said Douglas N. Daft, president of Coca-Cola’s Pacific Group.

Coca-Cola says it sold 75 million cases in China in 1992. China’s soft-drink business is dominated by local brands, which hold about 80 percent of the market. (Orlando Sentinel)

Double-Digit Growth

In 1993, China experienced a second consecutive year of double-digit growth. Overall, the country’s economy grew by 13% in spite of austerity programs implemented at mid-year. However, inflation also has become a serious problem, registering 19.5% for the year in urban areas. (CNCR)

Private-Sector Entrepreneurs

By the year 2000, private sector production is expected to account for at least 20 percent of China’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to the New China News Agency. In 1990, the figure was just 1 percent. Government figures say China now has 18,000,000 entrepreneurs who employ a work force of about 42,000,000. The figure may actually be double that, however, because many private businesses find it politically advantageous to pose as collectives. In the cities, according to a State Council researcher, half the collectives are private; in the villages, nearly 90 percent are. (The Washington Post)

Copyright Thieves Will Go to Jail

China has approved jail terms of up to seven years for copyright pirates. The new provisions to China’s criminal law, passed by Parliament this summer, allow maximum jail terms of three years where large profits are involved and seven years for extremely large profits. The provisions target illicit copying and distribution of books, fine art, audio-visual products, and computer software. (China Daily)

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