Category: China


Replace Pictures of Jesus With Xi Jinping

Believers are urged to replace religious artifacts in their homes with posters of the Communist Party leader if they want to benefit from poverty-relief efforts


Christians Fear New Persecution

Once a hub of Christianity, worshippers in Wenzhou fear their faith is facing its biggest threat since the Cultural Revolution.


Killer Smog

Pollution in China kills between 350 and 500 thousand people each year. This was revealed by an article in the British scientific journal The Lancet co- authored by Chen Zhu, president of the Medical Association of China, formerly the Minister for Health under President Hu Jintao. In the text, the authors admit that “despite best efforts, it will be difficult to control the phenomenon, since there are huge sources of pollution and of very different kinds.”

A Snapshot Of The Chinese Elderly

The survey covered about 18 thousand people in 28 provinces. The data points out that 65% of the elderly population is likely to live in poverty for the rest of their lives, given that the pension system cannot cover costs if it isn’t receiving taxes from workers which, in any case, are far fewer than the elderly.  Analysts who have studied the results of the research have reported alarming figures. More than 38% of the elderly “has serious difficulty” in meeting their daily needs; 24% have to integrate their pension with an odd job to make ends meet, 25% live on less than 2,433 Yuan (about 300 Euros) a year, the minimum set by the government to define a pauper. The healthcare situation is also disastrous. About 33% of respondents suffer from a chronic disease: 54% of these have high blood pressure, while 40% are not even able to have their illness diagnosed. There are very high rates of psychological symptoms: 48% of women and 32% of men show signs of depression. Added to this is the fact that the availability of access to the medical system is greatly reduced for the elderly who live in big cities. Beijing can only provide 1,100 beds per 10 thousand requests for admission. Professor John Strauss of the University of California points out that another factor also must be taken into consideration. “At the moment, those over 65 had 3 or 4 children. The next wave will be to those who have suffered the one-child law and, therefore, a lot less hope. ”  

Sea Burials

Officials across China are selling hard the option of a watery grave by offering hefty financial incentives and planting stories in state media – with only marginal success. Many local governments, however, have saved their strongest pitches for the Qingming Festival, when families nationwide take a day off to sweep their ancestors’ graves. In the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, officials recently announced a $160 bonus for families that scatter ashes at sea. In Shanghai, officials upped their offer in the past year from $65 to a more persuasive $320. Topping them all, however, are the coastal cities of Shaoxing and Wenzhou, which are offering $800 and $1,290, respectively, for sea burials. To sweeten the deal, the government often provides transportation, including all–expense–paid boat trips. The official eagerness is fueled by bureaucratic fears of chaos and anger once the country runs out of graves – a certainty in coming years, according to recent studies. To cut down on space, cremation already is required by law in cities, but land shortages have increasingly sparked risky investments for even the small graves in which those ashes are usually interred. The cheapest spots in some of Beijing’s more desirable cemeteries sell for more than $16,000, and Chinese media reports have cited luxury tombs sold for as much as $129,000. With virtually unlimited demand, many come with hefty maintenance fees after an initial 20–year lease and guarantee eviction if they go unpaid. And the problem will only get worse as China’s elderly population increases. In 2011, 9.6 million people died in China. A government report, issued last week, predicts the number will reach 20 million annually by 2025. Most provinces will run out of burial room in the next 10 years, according to the study by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. A few provinces – such as Shanxi, Shandong and Guangdong – have fewer than five years.  

Persecution Of Christians Getting Worse

Sadly, it is now customary for the so–called “house” churches, which are less easy to control, to be targeted by the Chinese government. But there is another factor that has made the situation even more difficult and that is the government and the Communist Party have a specific aim. Taking into account the past 7 years, it is clear that persecution continues to worsen, on the basis of an annual 24.5 % growth rate. According to ChinaAid’s analysts, persecution in 2012 was not just a continuation of the practice, developed in 2008 and 2009, of “targeting “house” church leaders and churches in urban areas,” or the 2010 strategy of “attacking Christian human rights lawyers groups and using abuse, torture and mafia tactics.” Neither was it a continuation of the 2011 strategy of increasing the intensity of the attacks against Christians and “house” churches that have an impact on society. There was a change of strategy and the reason for this can be found in a document issued by the Ministries of Public Security and Civil Affairs. This document, which was written by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, roughly outlines three phases of the operation. The first, from January to June 2012, foresaw intense and secret inquiries into “house” churches across the country and the creation of a set of archives on these. The second phase should last between 2 to 3 years and be based on the gradual elimination of registered “house” churches with the aim of closing all of these down definitively, over a ten–year period. Indeed, various carrot and stick methods were used to achieve this; churches were closed down and church leaders were sent to labor camps in an attempt to convince them to enter the State and Communist Party-controlled church system. The report, however, does end on a slightly optimistic note. “The church … is still standing firm, flourishing like the cedars of Lebanon and fruit trees planted by the streams, bearing much fruit at the appointed time.” 

No More Dog Or Cat Meat On The Menu

In an interview with The Mirror, Chang said that, over the last four months, he has received a great deal of support, but some people are still unwilling to grasp the concept of animal welfare. He, therefore, decided to focus on pushing for legislation on torture first, and hoped to be able to pass the draft to the relevant government department for consideration in April.  In recent years, animal welfare has attracted growing attention in mainland China. For instance, the government’s decision to cull stray dogs across the country as a means to combat rabies drew fire from critics. In response, the authorities cited, in their defense, China’s ancestral traditions and culinary practices. But many others still remember the SARS outbreak caused by eating masked palm civet meat. “Banning consumption of dogs and cats should not have much impact. Given the improvement in our standard of living, the number of people eating dogs and cats is minimal,” Chang said. Still in southern China, dogs and cats remain a culinary delicacy. Ten million dogs and four million cats are sold as food for human consumption every year. In Guangzhou, capital of the rich southern province of Guangdong, staff at one of the restaurants known for serving such meats remember North Korean leader Kim Jong-il ordering take-out dog meat.  

Church Fails To Follow Population Growth

The statistics do not distinguish between the government-approved and “underground” Church communities. The report states that figures for the latter may not be entirely accurate due to the difficulties involved in getting information. The FICS spent three months gathering information through e-mails, phone calls, faxes and personal interviews. The report says there are now 628 seminarians studying in 10 major seminaries plus another 630 in 30 minor seminaries. There are a total of 5,451 nuns from 106 congregations, and only 350 Religious men. The survey also lists more than 400 Church-run organizations, including schools, research institutes, publishing houses, medical facilities and homes for the aged and orphans. A Church observer, using the pen name “Dade,” says the survey shows how small the number of Catholics still is compared to China’s 1.3 billion people. He says the Church needs to evangelize more for its overall development. Dade, whose views were posted on the website of Hebei Faith Press, noted that there were more than 3 million Catholics out of a 500-million-strong population in 1949, when the Communists took power. Over a span of 60 years, the number of Catholics has not even doubled, he said. Dade added that Church communities had not made evangelization a priority over the decades, but had instead engaged in disputes, thus missing opportunities for growth. However, statistics compiled by Hong Kong diocese’s Holy Spirit Study Centre (HSSC) in 2008 show a marked difference from FICS’ figures. HSSC puts the number of mainland Catholics at about 12 million last year, more than double the figure given by FICS. Anthony Lam Sui-ki, HSSC’s senior researcher, said his institute began collecting data from mainland dioceses in 1988, and there has always been a marked difference between its figures and the mainland Church’s official figures.    

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