From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Chinese human rights activists offer Taiwan a clearheaded view
"Taiwan Church News" <email@example.com>
Wed, 3 Mar 2010 11:36:14 -0800
> Taiwan Church News
>February 22~28, 2010
Chinese human rights activists offer Taiwan a clearheaded view
>Reported by Sam Lee
>Written by Lydia Ma
According to a Taiwanese historian, many Taiwanese people looked forward to Chinese rule
at the end of World War II when Japan was defeated and forced to surrender Taiwan.
However, such optimism and attachment to the “fatherland” in China was soon crushed when
a bloody clash erupted in 1947 between Taiwanese people and their new government sent
from China. The clash is now commonly referred to as the 228 Incident. Now, a few decades
later, in the name of peace and prosperity, Beijing and the Ma administration can’t wait to get
ECFA signed. Underneath all the talks and promises, could ECFA result in a repeat of the
Many Chinese human rights advocates who’ve been black-listed by Beijing have even urged
Taiwan to preserve and protect its democracy. However, during ARATS Chairman Chen
Yunlin’s visit to Taiwan last year and throughout the dialogue on ECFA, the Ma administration
never asked Beijing to respect freedom and human rights, an indication of this
administration’s disregard for democracy and human rights. Commenting on Taiwan, Wang
Dan, a leader of the Chinese democracy movement and a prominent figure during the
Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, said that freedom is never won easily, but always lost
During a visit to Taiwan last month, Yang Jian-li emphasized that Beijing’s promotion of
economic development shouldn’t be taken at face value for communist politics is always
conservative and repressive. Yang is a professor at Harvard University and a Chinese human
rights advocate. He noted that China’s economic development in recent years has resulted in
social inequalities, severe contradictions within the government, and rampant conflict in many
regions. As the Chinese economy slows down in the next few years, Beijing will likely rein in
>people’s freedoms even more.
Persecution prompts human rights activist to pray
When Yang Jian-li, who is also a Christian, visited PCT last month, he met with PCT General
Secretary Andrew Chang and told Chang that both Chinese human rights activists living
outside China and house churches within China would benefit a great deal if PCT shared with
them its experiences in advancing democracy and social outreach.
Yang also talked about his experiences while incarcerated and emphasized how he relied on
God to pull him through and led other inmates to Christ during that time. He estimated that
there are about 100 million Christians who are members of house churches or underground
churches across China and sharing experiences or models with Christians all over the world
on topics such as social outreach and democracy can benefit Chinese house churches.
Yang recollected that when he was sentenced to a detention center in Beijing, he was warned
by a woman guard during a time of personal prayer that he wasn’t allowed to pray, resulting in
an argument. That night, Yang was beaten by some guards and then transferred to another
prison for three months where human rights conditions were much worse. It was prayer that
>sustained his life during those months.
Yang said that many people in the prisons he had stayed needed spiritual and emotional
encouragement. He eventually asked his visitors to bring Bibles to him and began teaching a
Bible study class in prison. He also baptized three people in prison and summed up this
>experience as the happiest event in his life.
Yang also shared about a period of 15 months when he was confined to a penitentiary for
political prisoners. Confined in a 9 square meter cell with no windows and banned from
reading books and writing, he relied on daily prayer and composing poems in his head and
reflecting on his faith to keep away depression.
Chang replied that after a family service at former President Lee’s residence in 2006, Lee
had mentioned to him that Beijing’s tight rein on religion, media, and internet were threatening
basic human rights, and Taiwan should urge China to open up.
Internet censoring prompts Google to consider exiting from China
In an act of protest, Internet search giant Google announced in January that it would consider
exiting from the Chinese market because of Beijing’s restriction on internet freedom and
filtering of search results. This announcement shocked the world and earned China the title of
>“Berlin Wall of the 21st Century”
According to information technology experts, China’s internet technology advanced in leaps
and bounds but took a turn in 1999 when attempts to smolder Falun Gong groups prompted
Beijing to invest a lot of resources in controlling and censoring internet information.
Many corporations such as Yahoo, Microsoft, Cisco, or Google had initially cooperated with
the government because of profits and China’s enormous consumer market. Some installed
filtering systems that could filter out sensitive words such as “June 4”, “Taiwan independence”,
“Tibet independence”, “Presbyterian Church in Taiwan”, and countless other words the
government deemed dangerous or inappropriate. China’s internet censoring soon became
>the strictest in the world.
However, Google’s announcement about quitting China, regardless of whether it eventually
comes to pass, has created a new international atmosphere, said Yang. He believes this is
another God-given opportunity for Christians to support human rights advocates detained in
Yang likens Google’s announcement to Saul’s transformation. Saul, also known as Paul,
became a great evangelist and apostle after his Damascus road experience and encounter
with Jesus. Yang believes that when human rights oppressors in Beijing repent and turn
around they will find that they can still become heroes like Paul.
Amount of freedom of press makes even Obama speechless
China’s tight rein on freedom of speech and freedom of the press can make everyone literally
speechless – and U.S. President Barack Obama is no exception.
While wrapping up a visit to China in November 2009, Obama did an exclusive interview with
Southern Weekly, a newspaper in Guangdong. However, government authorities demanded
that transcripts of the interview be approved before Southern Weekly was allowed to publish
this interview. As result, the original front page news about Obama that Southern Weekly had
planned was held off and replaced by a commercial. A small disclaimer at the bottom of the
page informed readers that, “Not every edition will contain an exclusive interview, but you will
get to know China better by reading here every week.” Excerpts of Obama’s interview on non-
sensitive issues such as basketball eventually appeared elsewhere in the newspaper.
Beijing’s tight rein on freedom of the press is reminiscent of Taiwan during martial law era. In
the years after the 228 Incident in 1947, a few newspapers in Taiwan had editions confiscated
and notable writers, reporters, and columnists in Taiwan were kept under surveillance.
According to Chinese writer Bei Ling who is currently blacklisted by Beijing, people in China
cannot publish or speak freely. Bei Ling recently took part in Taipei International Book
Exhibition and was invited to showcase some literary works banned in China. Such books are
usually popular in European book exhibitions as well.
Besides curtailing freedom of the press, Beijing frequently uses all kinds of pretexts to curtail
freedom of speech and apprehend those who speak on issues the government would rather
keep under wraps. An example of this is Tan Zuoren, a man sentenced to five years in jail for
exposing the “tofu dregs schoolhouses”. Tan’s formal sentence was “inciting subversion of
state power” and he was later prosecuted under the pretext of defaming the Communist Party
of China with comments he’d made about the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Throughout the
sentencing, there was no mention of Tan’s involvement in the Sichuan earthquake. Reporters
without Borders have decried the Chinese Communist Party for not conforming to procedures
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