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Come to China During Christmas to Enjoy Religious Freedom!

The Chinese Communist Party's mouthpiece, Global Times, published an editorial on Christmas Eve inviting international China observers to spend their holiday in China [zh] to witness how Chinese people celebrate Christmas all over the country.

This editorial was in response to the mounting criticism that China does not have religious freedom. According to China Aid's report, at least 1289 arrests by Chinese authorities in 2011 were linked to religious prosecution.

Despite the bold Global Times editorial, netizens reported that the entrances of a few churches were blocked during Christmas this year. Moreover, China's minority Muslim Uyghur community, appalled by the editorial, dared the Global Times to invite observers to the Xinjiang region for their Muslim festival.

In China, Christmas is another holiday for consumption. Photo by Flickr user Marc van der Chijs CC: BY-SA.

Consumption freedom is not religious freedom

Most netizens immediately pointed out the fallacy of the Global Times’ editorial in reducing religious freedom to secular Christmas celebration. Below are some instant reactions from a news threads [zh] on China's microblogging site Sina Weibo:

铭格格-洛桑卓玛:在胡编无知狭隘的眼里,商业炒作等同于宗教信仰自由,容许进教堂寺庙道观等地方参观等同于宗教信仰自由。。。

铭格格-洛桑卓玛:In the shallow view of the Global Time editor Hu Shijun, a commercial festival is equal to religious freedom, touristic visits to churches and temples is equal to religious freedom…

彭勇-AARON:这是消费自由!别扯信仰自由。。。

彭勇-AARON:This is freedom of consumption, don't connect it with religious freedom.

Churches blocked

Ironically, netizens found out that some churches had been blocked and sealed off during Christmas eve. On December 24, 2012 in Tianjin city Deci celestial reported [zh]:

无事去滨江道和西开教堂转了一圈儿,节日气氛相当浓厚。去参观教堂的所有入口都被封了,最后定向越野似的循着警察贴在电线杆商场柱子和柜台上的A4纸指示才找到一个隐秘的特别入口,中间警察至少有5重把关

The festival mood was strong and I took a ride to the Xikai church near Bingjiang road. All the entrances to the church had been blocked. Eventually I located a secret entrance by following the A4 paper size instruction stuck on some electric poles. On the way, there were at least 5 blockades set up by the police.

Photos uploaded by Weibo user Liagyage showing a Church being blocked in Xian on Christmas day.

On 25 December a large number of Christians protested in Xian city, Shaanxi Province because their church had been blocked. Liagyage uploaded some photos described the situation:

圣诞节被封了门的基督教堂,被堵了的道路,全球狂欢日,这些人却在寒夜上演着席地痛哭的悲剧?是何缘由?

[The photos show] The entrance of the church that has been sealed off; a road that was blocked. While the whole world is celebrating, the people here are siting on the ground, crying on a cold winter night? Why is that so?

Darkmumu re-posted Liyiforever's photo and attracted quite a few comments on the reality of religious freedom in China:

天行者68th:凡是有人聚集的地方,凡是不是他们的恶毒谎言能够辖制到的地方,都是禁地。

天行者68th:In places where people gathered, where they could not be governed by their [the authorities'] lies, is now forbidden territory.

染香姐姐:这些二逼,把阳光下的教堂封了,是让人去信邪教吗??黑暗滋生一切罪恶,如果中国能够公开传教,根本就不会把好好的宗教越信越邪。

染香姐姐:They are so stupid. Blocking the church under the sun is forcing people to believe in evil cults. When activities are happening in the dark, it will generate sin and crime. If China can allow open and public preaching, religious activities will not turn into cults.

西葫芦馅儿:在这个国度信仰是一种奢侈。

西葫芦馅儿:It is a luxury to hold to any belief in this country.

实习奋青:在这个地方,改信钱吧。

实习奋青:Better believe in money in this land.

House Churches are “evil cults”

In China, all Protestant activities have to be under the coordination of the Three-self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, which is under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Other Christian sects, in the form of House Church, are considered illegal and vulnerable to crack down. People outside the Christian circle tend to believe that religious activities outside the Three-self Churches are evil cults. Opinions like the following one coming from 詹姆-兰尼斯特 [zh] unfortunately are not uncommon:

这条新闻我真心不是很相信,教堂都是教产,而且国内都是三自爱的教产,政府自己封自己?被封的是家庭教会的可能性极大——如果真的是家庭教会,我预先说一句去你麻痹的臭邪教!

I don't believe in this news [blocking of church in Xian]. All churches are properties of the Church and in China they are owned by the Three-self Patriotic Churches. The government will not block its own branch? It is very likely that the blocked one is a House Church. In this case, I would say “fxxk off, you stinking evil cults!”

Invite observers to Muslim festivals

The Uyghur community in China also finds Global Times's editorial problematic. Ulghurbiz.net wrote a commentary challenging Global Times and inviting observers to Xinjiang for Muslim celebration:

《环球时报》的这篇评论漏洞百出,它把中国年轻人“过洋节”的消费文化移花接木地理解成了基督教文化在中国的自由发展。如果不是节日效应刺激效应,官方还会这么网开一面吗?另外,基督徒人数增加的首要原因是人们对国家核心价值观的失望之后转投宗教的怀抱以此寻求安慰呢,还是确如文章所说的是中国政府的开明政策呢?这需要系统的论证。
如果在开斋节或宰牲节等穆斯林传统节日来临之际,西方媒体指责中国政府压制穆斯林的宗教自由时,《环球时报》是否还敢发布一篇题为《怀疑宗教自由请来疆过节》的文章呢?

The Global Times’ editorial is full of fallacies. It turns young Chinese people's consumption of a “western festival” into evidence of freedom of Christianity culture in China. Will the government loosen control if Christmas was not a consumption holiday? The increase in the number of Christians in China is mainly a reaction to the loss of core values in this country. People want to seek comfort from religion. Does it have anything to do with the government's open policy? We need systematic debate on this. If western media criticizes the repression of Muslim religious activities in China on the eve of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, will Global Times dare to publish an editorial “Skeptics of Religious Freedom in China, please go to Xinjiang for the Festival”?

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