From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Chinese human rights activists offer Taiwan a clearheaded view

From "Taiwan Church News" <>
Date Wed, 3 Mar 2010 11:36:14 -0800

>      Taiwan Church News

>3026 Edition

>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

>228 Incident?

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

>when sentencing.


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