Monday, March 16, 2009

Voice of America Report Reveals that Meeting Between Beijing House Church Leaders and Government Officials was Misreported

BEIJING-The Voice of America released the following report on January 28, 2009 regarding the December 2008 meeting between Beijing house church leaders and government officials. While many news sources have reported that these meetings indicate a change of attitude by the Chinese government,however Voice of America sources, along with ChinaAid contacts, have emphasized the meetings were not actually arranged by government officials.
The Equivocal Relationship Between the Chinese House Churches and the Chinese Government
By Ya Wei, Voice of America
Last December, the house church leaders in China held a conference in Beijing.According to the person in charge, the conference was not officially supported by the Chinese government as some have assumed.The relationship between the Chinese house churches and the Chinese government remains equivocal.A few international media sources,including The Times,reported that the Chinese officials and leaders of the Chinese house churches secretly met with each other last year in Beijing, which marked the first significant step towards reconciliation in decades.It was reported that the two parties joined together as negotiators instead of opponents. It was also said that the meeting was at a crucial time because this year is the 60th anniversary of the founding of the P.R.C.,and the Chinese government desires a national celebration without any disturbance.The Times reported on the rapid increase of the Chinese Christian population in recent years.The Chinese officials privately estimate there are about 130,000,000 Christians in China, many of whom belong to the house churches.The number of Christians in China far exceeds the population of the Communist Party members (Currently there are 74,000,000 Communist Party members).The church leaders believe that this is one of the reasons why the official Chinese think tank-Research Center of the State Council-summoned two breakthrough conferences in late 2008.It was reported that the majority of those who attended the first conference were academics and lawyers, many of whom are house church members; the second conference brought together six house church leaders.
NGOs Arrange House Church Research Conference
Dr. Fan, Yafeng, an academic of Law in Beijing, organized and attended the meeting on December 1st, 2008. In the meeting, they discussed the treatment of the house churches’ development and the issues in regarding the house churches’ identity. According to Dr. Fan’s description, it was a small-scale meeting among NGOs, which was not how it was promoted-namely,that it was authorized by and was given under the auspices of the Chinese government to get to know the situation of the house churches and create a dialogue with the two groups. “The conference was a small internal research meeting that an NGO hosted to prepare for a research report on house church issues. One thing I can confirm, this meeting did not have official Chinese backing or authorization to begin a dialogue with house church leaders,” said Dr. Fan. According to an anonymous organizer, the meeting attendees consisted of three groups: specialists and lawyers on religious freedom regarding the relationship of religion and legality; house church leaders and academics from NGOs in the related field. “We hope that, through discussions on the relationship between the house churches and the government, we will impact future policy on religion. We hope the new policy will improve the politics-religion relationship.”
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As in the days of Noah...

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