Round Up the Usual Christians
As Christmas nears, Chinese Christians are enduring the worst religious persecution in decades. Witness last weekend’s raid on the Early Rain Covenant Church, an unregistered “house church” in Chengdu. Some 100 were arrested, including Wang Yi, a legal scholar and one of China’s most famous pastors.
In February Beijing began implementing new regulations to control religious practice in China. The rules restrict proselytizing and charitable work, crack down on religious education for minors, limit the collection of donations, and forbid posting some faith-based content online. They also require churches to register with the government, which can censor sermons, choose or reject pastors, and otherwise interfere with worship. The government has also begun installing facial-recognition technology in many registered churches.
Beijing claims the regulations promote the rule of law when managing religious affairs, but Mr. Wang—a lawyer once celebrated by the state-owned press as an influential public intellectual— called out this warped
A pastor who visited the White House in 2006 is under arrest.
logic. The Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom of religious belief and “normal religious activities,” so “passing the Regulations is a step backward for the rule of law in the religious field,” Mr. Wang wrote last year in response to a draft of the rules. He decried the regulations as “evil from the standpoint of religious belief, illegal from the standpoint of the constitution, and foolish from the political standpoint.”
Mr. Wang has urged Christians to resist the religious regulations in legal and nonviolent fashion. On Wednesday, Mr. Wang’s family received notice that he has been charged with inciting the subversion of state power—the same charge Beijing leveled against Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who died last year in custody. Mr. Wang visited the White House in 2006, and U.S. officials should urge his release when they engage with Chinese counterparts.