How many construction cranes can you count in 30 seconds?

One thing that still amazes me about China is how things are sometimes done on a massive scale, bigger than anything I’ve even heard of anywhere else.

Took this video from a Qingdao taxi as we passed a construction site today. How many construction cranes can you count? I stopped counting after 30.

It’s embedded from YouTube, so you’ll need a VPN if you’re in China. Screenshot below, of only one portion of the entire building site:

IMG 0654a Copy How many construction cranes can you count in 30 seconds?

Why are they removing crosses & bulldozing churches in China?

guantouroof Why are they removing crosses & bulldozing churches in China?There’s an official campaign on in Zhejiang 浙江 province, home of “China’s Jerusalem” (a.k.a. Wenzhou 温州, the epicenter of traditional Chinese Christianity), in which the government is either forcibly removing crosses from the tops of the church buildings or simply bulldozing them. One Catholic news site had documented 64 demolitions as of May 21. A Protestant human rights advocacy group puts the current total at around 360. And it continues with another one reported this week (Telegraph). Demolition crews come in at 3am, and churches are warned that if they don’t allow their cross to be removed then their whole building will be demolished just like that that huge, new, famous one. Church members are putting up resistance, though so far it’s been ultimately futile (see here for the first big clash that made international news, in which church grannies occupied their church building).

guantouprotest Why are they removing crosses & bulldozing churches in China?

Why? If you answer, “Because they were in violation of building codes! We don’t tolerate that sort of thing in England and neither should the Chinese!” then YOU FAIL China 101 (and this panda facepalm is for you). pandafacepalm Why are they removing crosses & bulldozing churches in China?If this campaign really was about public safety, building codes and zoning laws as the government claims, then they’d be flattening most of Zhejiang province, not zeroing in on churches (duh — I know I shouldn’t read the comments under news stories, but I still couldn’t believe how many times I saw this idea pop up). If you answer, “Because China’s run by atheistic anti-Christian Communists and it’s just like when Mao was alive!” then you’re slightly closer to the truth, but you’re still headed for summer school.

But the direction of your pet prejudices doesn’t matter because (as often happens) government documents have been leaked, showing us exactly why they’re going after churches. Ian Johnson, a 20-year veteran of Chinese state-religion reportage whom I’ve cited before for his reportage on the FLG, confirms in Church-State Clash in China Coalesces Around a Toppled Spire (NYT) what seasoned China people should have been able to figure out from the details in Tom Phillips’ earlier reporting (Telegraph). I’ll quote bits of Ian Johnson’s latest to fill in the three bullet points below, but you should read the whole thing; there’s lots of important detail I’m leaving out here.

First, what started all this?

The church’s problems seem to have begun with a visit to the region in October by the provincial party secretary, Xia Baolong, a close ally of President Xi. Visiting a new economic zone north of Wenzhou, Mr. Xia was reportedly disturbed that a religious building, especially one seen as representing a foreign belief, dominated the skyline. The next month, members of the congregation said, they were told to remove the cross atop their church’s steeple.

“Xia Baolong came to inspect last autumn, and he saw the cross,” said an official in the Wenzhou government’s religious hierarchy. “He said: ‘Take down the cross. It’s so high, and it’s not appropriate.’ But the people said: ‘Well, we’ve already put it up there, and from a faith point of view, it’s our faith, the cross. How can we take it down?’ ”

sanjianghighwaybefore Why are they removing crosses & bulldozing churches in China?
sanjianghighwayafter Why are they removing crosses & bulldozing churches in China?
sanjianghighwayafter2 Why are they removing crosses & bulldozing churches in China?

“Public safety & zoning violations”? Srsly, guys?

The government has defended its actions, saying the churches violated zoning restrictions. However, an internal government document reviewed by The New York Times makes it clear the demolitions are part of a strategy to reduce Christianity’s public profile.

The nine-page provincial policy statement says the government aims to regulate “excessive religious sites” and “overly popular” religious activities, but it specifies only one religion, Christianity, and one symbol, crosses.

“The priority is to remove crosses at religious activity sites on both sides of expressways, national highways and provincial highways,” the document says. “Over time and in batches, bring down the crosses from the rooftops to the facade of the buildings.”
[...]
Officials argued that the church violated zoning rules, but the provincial policy paper suggests that argument was a tactical cover. The paper, called “Working Document Concerning the Realization of Handling of Illegal Religious Buildings,” said the policy would face international scrutiny so officials should be careful to cloak their effort under the guise of cracking down on building codes. “Be particular about tactics, be careful about methods,” it said, urging officials to focus on the idea of “illegal construction.” “This is crucial to investigate and prosecute from the perspective of laws and regulations to avoid inviting heavy criticism.”
[...]
“They said, ‘This will be your last church for 20 years, so make it big,’ ” said a member of the Sanjiang congregation involved in the negotiations. “They also told us that the development zone was a big project and needed a big church as a sign of how this was an outward-looking community.”

An official in the city’s religious affairs bureau acknowledged that “officials said it could be bigger, but perhaps this was a mistake.”

guantoucrossdown Why are they removing crosses & bulldozing churches in China?

Why single out Christianity?

Protestantism is also linked to a national debate about “universal values.” Some Chinese Protestants argue that rights such as freedom of expression are God-given, and thus cannot be taken away by the state. These beliefs have led many Protestants to take up human rights work. A disproportionate number of lawyers handling prominent political cases, for example, are Protestant.
[...]
The leveling of the Sanjiang Church came amid growing tensions not only between Christianity and the Communist government, but also between Christianity and other religions. It was preceded by a local petition accusing the church of destroying the area’s feng shui, geomantic principles that underlie traditional Chinese folk religion.
[...]
Increasingly, those other religions are receiving greater support from the Communist Party. In March, Mr. Xi praised Buddhism for its contributions to China.
[...]
Just a decade ago, the Communist Party condemned fortunetelling, feng shui and many traditional funerary rites as “feudal superstition.” Now, these are protected under government programs to support “intangible cultural heritage.”

ChinaSource sums it up in It’s About the Space:

…while space for Christianity and religious belief IS expanding in China, it is still the government that has the power to determine the limits of that space. And every once in awhile it needs to give a visible demonstration of that power.

The on-going church demolition and cross-removal campaign is about the growing ideological and physical space that Christianity is occupying in China; this campaign is “a shot across the bow” of Protestant Christianity.

The Chinese authorities don’t mind tolerating a Christianity that is effectively socially marginalized — i.e. it stays out of public consciousness. But Christians will expand into as much space as they’re allowed, and in the more tolerant cities and provinces like Qingdao in Shandong and (formerly) Zhejiang, that space continues to grow. Sometimes newly developing business districts like to accessorize with a fancy church building; it makes them feel open and cosmopolitan. This was the case with the Sanjiang church above, which the Zhejiang government made an example out of. It’s also what appears to be happening fifteen minutes from our neighbourhood in Qingdao, where an elaborate new church building with fancy stained glass and a river sits beside a big new park and a block away from a shiny shopping centre in a sea of construction.

But in Zhejiang province at least, the local Christian presence has exceeded the current limits of the government’s comfort zone. At the highest levels Christianity is perceived as a tool for foreign antagonists, partly because of Communist China’s ideological heritage, and partly because in China as elsewhere throughout history, the connection between human rights and Christianity is becoming increasingly clear — Christianity is disproportionately represented among China’s human rights agitators.

Also from the Ian Johnson and the NYT:

P.S. - Here’s two related things — an explanation of the Chinese words for “church”, and a translated bit from a Chinese pastor, calling for Chinese Christians to re-think their focus on church buildings in light of the recent conflict. (Chinese Christians — and local governments developing new districts — do tend to have a ‘thing’ for fancy church buildings.) At the very least, it’s an interesting anecdote for how Chinese Christians are processing this particular campaign:

When it comes to our faith, the word jiaohui (church, congregation, fellowship) is not the same as jiaotang (church building). It may be possible to deal violently with a jiaotang, but not with the jiaohui. Christians shouldn’t be so sad. Maybe this is a good time to reflect and wonder if we have put too much focus on church buildings. With this jiaotang now destroyed, we should focus our efforts on building the jiaohui.
[...]
The church (jiaohui) is not a church building (jiaotang). The original meaning of the term church (jiaohui) is “a people called by God gathered together.” The key terms are “called by God,” “people,” and “gather together.” It does not say that that “gathering together” must be done in a church building (jiaotang). Protestant theology has always emphasized that the key functions of the church (jiaohui) are “preaching the Word” and “properly administering the sacraments.” These two principles define what a true church (jiaohui) is. It says nothing about a building.

cranecrossbanner Why are they removing crosses & bulldozing churches in China?

P.P.S. – For some further perspective on persecution, consider that at the same time Zhejiang province is bulldozing church buildings, this woman just gave birth in shackles on death row and will receive 100 lashes before she is hanged… because she’s not Muslim.

Propaganda Fight 2: neighbourhood posters directly address cult-stamped money

In Qingdao, China it’s not uncommon to find anti-Party messages stamped on our money. I have a collection going. They’re created by a huge home-grown Chinese religious group that the Chinese government officially designated an “evil cult” in the late-90′s. Here’s the most recent one I’ve received:

flgmoney Propaganda Fight 2: neighbourhood posters directly address cult stamped money
“On a 100million year old ancient stone in Guizhou province suddenly appears ‘China Communist Party Die’ six big characters, quickly declare withdrawal from the Party and guarantee your well-being, Quit the Party Team phone number: 001…”

New anti-cult posters continue to go up on our neighbourhood’s Anti-Evil Cult Warning & Education Propaganda Board (all of them anti-FLG or anti-Almighty God/Eastern Lightning). Normally they’re simple and illustrated, like this one currently posted beside a copy of the Alarm Bell News (a publication for “upholding science and opposing evil cults” by the Guarding Against and Dealing With the Evil Cult Problem Office):

* * * * *

xiejiaoposterfull Propaganda Fight 2: neighbourhood posters directly address cult stamped money
Guard Against and Resist Evil Cults, Construct a Harmonious Society

1. What is an Evil Cult?
Evil cult refers to the fraudulent use of religion, Qigong or other established things; deified ringleaders; make use of, create, and disseminate superstition, fallacies, etc., to deceive others; grow and control members; illegal organizations that endanger society.

2. What is the Basic Nature of an Evil Cult?
Anti-humanity, anti-science, anti-society.

3. What are the Main Features of an Evil Cult?
1) Anti-science, fabricate falsehoods.
2) Deified leader, psychological control.
3) Secret societies, illegal activities.
4) Swindle believers, extort wealth.
5) Opposed to the government, hostile to society.
6) Proclaim doom, create panic.

Keep away from evil cults; Live healthily
Qingdao City Guard Against & Deal With the Evil Cult Problem Office

防范抵御邪教 构建和谐社会

一、什么是邪教?
邪教是指冒用宗教、气功或者其他名义建立,神化首要分子,利用制造、散布迷信邪说等手段迷信、蒙骗他人,发展、控制成员,危害社会的非法组织。

二、邪教的本质是什么?
反人类、反科学、反社会

三、邪教的主要特征有哪些?
1、反对科学,编造邪说。
2、神化头子,精神控制。
3、秘密结社,非法活动。
4、坑骗信徒,聚敛钱财。
5、反对政府,仇视社会。
6、宣扬灾劫,制造恐慌。

远离邪教 健康生活
青岛市防范和处理邪教问题办公室

* * * * *

But just last week I noticed this next one, which addresses the defaced money directly. Unlike the cute comic-style posters; this is serious black and white multiple-official-red-stamped business. Rough translation below the image (feel free to suggest corrections!):

* * * * *

poster1 Propaganda Fight 2: neighbourhood posters directly address cult stamped money

Chinese Communist Party Shandong Province Party Committee Ministry of Propaganda
Shandong Province People’s Government Guarding Against & Dealing With the Evil Cult Problem Office
Shandong Province Public Security Bureau
China People’s Bank Jinan Branch

Regarding Being on Guard Against and Striking the “FLG” Evil Cult Organization
A Notice About Using RMB to Carry Out Reactionary Propaganda

For the past few years, some “FLG” evil cult members have been making use of the way RMB circulates, using handwriting, stamps, coloured printing, and other methods, writing and publicizing evil cult slogans on RMB, especially spreading reactionary content attacking and slandering the Chinese Communist Party and socialist system, projecting a vile and harmful influence. Under the Public Security Bureau’s crackdown and the broad masses of the people’s energetic boycott, this reactionary sabotage by “FLG” evil cult members has been been checked. But, due to the stubbornness of evil cult activity, currently a large number of these kinds of RMB still appear in society, and the response of the broad masses of the people is strong.

RMB is our China’s legal currency. “FLG” evil cult members adopt the method of defiling RMB to advance reactionary propaganda, they have no right to violate the People’s Republic of China People’s Bank Law and the People’s Republic of China RMB Administration Regulations, and furthermore they’ve violated our nation’s Criminal Law and Public Security Administration Penalties Law — a serious kind of anti-law, anti-society illegal criminal activity. The PRC Chinese People’s Bank Law 19th provision: deliberately damaging RMB is prohibited. The PRC RMB Administration Regulations 23rd provision: those who deliberately damage RMB will be warned by the Public Security Bureau, and a maximum fine of 10,000 yuan will be imposed. PRC Criminal Law 105th article 2nd provision: starting a rumour, slander or other methods of incitement to subvert state power and overthrow the socialist system will be punished with a maximum five year prison term, detention, supervision, or loss of political privileges; ringleaders and major offenders, a minimum five years prison term. 300th article 1st provision: organizing and making use of secret societies, evil cult organizations or using superstition to damage national law and implemented administrative statues, minimum three years to maximum seven years prison term; when circumstances are especially serious, minimum seven year prison term.

The image of the RMB must not be damaged, the dignity of law must not be trampled. The Public Security Bureau at all levels should intensify surveillance and detection efforts, punish criminal action of the “FLG” evil cult using RMB for reactionary propaganda, and maintain an orderly circulation and reputation of RMB. Advocacy at all levels of financial institutions, major Party and government organizations, schools, enterprises and institutions to prevent the evil cult sector, carry out various forms of extensive publicity and educational activities to give the public a clearer understanding of the “FLG” evil cult’s use of RMB for reactionary propaganda and serious illegal purposes, and enhance the image and legal responsibility of maintaining the dignity of the RMB, the ways and means to master the correct treatment, strive to create a good social atmosphere. The masses should raise awareness of and consciously resist the illegal and criminal activities of the “FLG”, and in daily life should ignore and reject the use of such defiled RMB, and if they receive such RMB should have it exchanged at the nearest bank branch as soon as possible. If suspicious persons are discovered writing reactionary content on RMB, actively report to the Public Security Bureau. Each bank branch should perform their required duties and enhance service awareness timely and according to the provisions for the masses to freely exchange such defiled RMB.

Let’s act together firmly in the fight with the “FLG” evil cult’s criminal actions of using RMB for reactionary propaganda, take concrete actions to safeguard the image of the RMB, and maintain the dignity of national law in order to accelerate the construction of the economy and culture of Shandong Province, to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, for the “Chinese Dream” of creating a harmonious and stable social environment!

April 10, 2014

中共山东省委宣传部
山东省人民政府防范和处理邪教问题办公室
山东省公安厅
中国人民银行济南分行

关于防范打击“FLG”邪教组织
利用人民币进行反动宣传的通告

近年来,一些“FLG”邪教分子利用人民币的流通特性,采用手写、盖印、彩色打印等手法,在人民币上书写和印制邪教标语特别是攻击诋毁中国共产党和社会主义制度的反动内容进行传播,影响恶劣危害突出。在公安机关严厉打击和广大人民群积极抵制下,“FLG”邪教分子的这一反动破坏行径受到了一定遏制。但是,由于邪教活动的顽固性,目前社会面上此类人民币仍大量出现,广大人民群众反映强烈。

人民币是我国法定货币。“FLG”邪教分子采取污损人民币的方式进行反动宣传,不权违反了《中华人民共和国中国人民银行法》《中华人民共和国人民币管理条例》,而且触犯了我国《刑法》和《治安管理处罚法》,是一种反法律反社会的严重违法犯罪行动。《中华人民共和国中国人民银行法》第十九条规定:禁止故意毁损人民币。《中华人民共和国人民币管理条例》第四十三条规定:故意毁损人民币的,由公安机关给予警告,并处1万元以下的罚款。《中华人民共和国刑法》第一百零五条第二款规定:以造谣、诽谤或者其他方式煽动颠覆国家政权、推翻社会主义制度的,处五年以下有期徒刑、拘役、管制或者剥夺政治权利;首要分子或者罪行重大的,处五年以上有期徒刑。第三百条第一款规定:组织和利用会道门、邪教组织或者利用迷信破坏国家法律、行政法规实施的,处三年以上七年以下有期徒刑;情节特别严重的,处七年以上有期徒刑。

人民币的形象不容破坏,法律的尊严践踏。各级公安机关要加大侦察破案力度,依法严惩“FLG”邪教分子利用人民币进行反动宣传的违法犯罪行动,维护人民币的流通秩序和良好信誉。各级宣传,防范处理邪教部门和金融机构以及广大党政组织、学校、企事业单位要广泛开展各种形式的宣传教育活动,是公众进一步认清“FLG”邪教分子利用人民币进行反动宣传的罪恶目的的和严重违法性,增强维护人民币形象和法律尊严的责任感,掌握正确处理的方式方法,着力营造良好社会氛围。广大人民群众要提高防范意识,自觉抵制“FLG”分子的违法犯罪活动,日常生活中注意拒收和不使用此类污损人民币,一旦收到此类人民币要尽快到就近银行网点进行兑换。如发现有在人民币上涂印反动内容的可疑人员,要积极向公安机关报告。各银行网点要认真履行法定职责,提高服务意识,按规定及时无偿为群众兑换此类污损人民币。

让我们共同行动起来,坚决同“FLG”邪教分子利用人民币进行反动宣传的违法犯罪行为作斗争,以实际行动维护人民币的形象,维护国家法律的尊严,为加快山东经济文化强省建设、实现中华民族伟大复兴的“中国梦”创造和谐稳定社会环境!

2014年4月10日

* * * * *

xiejiaobulldoze Propaganda Fight 2: neighbourhood posters directly address cult stamped money
The science bulldozer uproots superstition with scientific truth.

pesticideofscience Propaganda Fight 2: neighbourhood posters directly address cult stamped money
The pesticide of upholding science kills the pests of superstition on the tree of socialism.

alarmbell1 Propaganda Fight 2: neighbourhood posters directly address cult stamped money
The AlarmBell News. Headlines:
“Stay far away from evil cults, don’t be a captive puppet”;
“Clearly understand the ‘FLG’ evil cult’s basic nature” (p.2);
“How ‘Almighty God’ brainwashes believers” (p.3).

alarmbell2 Propaganda Fight 2: neighbourhood posters directly address cult stamped money
Headlines:
“Licang District launches anti-evil cult knowledge training”;
“How Almighty God brainwashes believers”;
“Evil cult organizations control believers through communication deprivation”;
“China’s approach to and methods of dealing with evil cults in the past”.

If you just can’t get enough “evil cult” propaganda:

Chinese church grannies stick it to local authorities, occupy church building to save it from gov’t bulldozers [UPDATE]

[UPDATE: After supposedly striking a deal to save the church building, gov't seals off access and tears it down. Scroll to bottom for more photos and quotes.]

* * * * *

Here’s my soapbox: People need to update their understanding of Christian persecution in China. And a recent Chinese-officials-try-to-bulldoze-a-church incident that’s hit international news is a fine opportunity to illustrate what I’m on about here. Like it or not, the relationship between Chinese authorities and Chinese Christians is… not super-simple.

Does the Chinese gov’t persecute Christians?
First of all, it’s Chinese governments — plural — as in local, provincial, and national levels that are often at odds with one another, and never mind that levels of tolerance and policy implementation vary greatly from region to region. “The Chinese gov’t” is a complicated collection of departments that vary hierarchically and geographically, and each one has latitude re: its attitude and posture toward Christians within its territory. If some Chinese Christians are in trouble, we need to ask who’s giving it to them; “the Chinese gov’t” isn’t specific enough to be a useful answer. A given instance of Christians-in-trouble usually has little if anything to do with Beijing.

Second, this is a bad question, because if you’re talking about the whole country, the answer is:

  • “Sometimes, but not usually.”
  • “All the time, at least somewhere.”
  • “Systematically marginalized? Yes. Actively persecuted? Not so much.”

Chinese authorities leave most Chinese Christians alone most of the time (within a status quo of effective, systematic social marginalization). So a more useful question is, “What factors are most likely to provoke trouble from the authorities?” There’s a list.

But let’s get to the sensational persecution story. This one’s actually kind of fun. Christians brazenly defy lower levels of gov’t while appealing to higher levels of gov’t. From The Telegraph:

wenzhouoccupychurch1 Chinese church grannies stick it to local authorities, occupy church building to save it from govt bulldozers [UPDATE]

Christians form human shield around church in ‘China’s Jerusalem’ after demolition threat
Christians have flocked to defend a church in eastern China after Communist Party officials claimed it was an “illegal construction” and announced plans to demolish it

…specifically, by painting “demolish” and “illegal construction” on the outside of the building. I suspect that got church-goers’ attention:

chai Chinese church grannies stick it to local authorities, occupy church building to save it from govt bulldozers [UPDATE]

If you see these kinds of (sensationalized) headlines and (understandably) get the impression that Beijing is literally plowing churches into the ground across the country, look at the details in more than one report. In this case, one province let churches get out of hand, so they’re reducing the number of extra-high, extra-conspicuous steeples and have picked a couple buildings for demolition. Here’re some hand-picked excerpts:

the Sanjiang church is part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, China’s officially sanctioned and government-controlled Protestant church, making this week’s stand-off highly unusual.

A woman who introduced herself as a representative of the local government rejected claims the Communist Party was persecuting local Christians.

“They can believe. This is free. We can’t control them,” said the woman, who gave her name as Zhang Biyao.

Ms Zhang said the church had been illegally built and was structurally unsound. The government wanted to protect “people’s safety,” she claimed.

Sanjiang’s congregation was unconvinced.

Parishioners believe their church was targeted after Xia Baolong, the provincial Party chief, visited the region and was unimpressed by the prominence of a church built to house thousands of worshippers.

“His behaviour is illegal. He has abused his power. The construction of the church is not against the law,” said Wang Jianfeng, a 47-year-old man from a nearby congregation who was among hundreds of people gathered on the steps outside on Friday in a show of force.

Wen Xiaowu, another visitor, said he believed China’s president would be “displeased” with his Communist colleagues in Zhejiang.

“Xi Jinping has said society should be harmonious. He is very open-minded about disciples of the Christian church.”

So:
– Local officials allow the government-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Church (or at least a legally-registered church; reports conflict) to build a big flashy church building.

– The provincial head comes into town and doesn’t like it. The unwritten rule is that Christianity must keep a low profile, and Christians in this province have been pushing that line for a while. In fact there’s a province-wide campaign to tone down the visibility of churches, mostly by making some (not all) churches take down extra-conspicuous steeples. See other articles here and here. This problem arose in the first place because churches across the province were given so much relative leeway that their buildings became too numerous and conspicuous for the comfort of provincial Party officials. In more tightly restricted provinces, churches aren’t allowed to become this conspicuous.

– So the local officials, who care first and foremost about their careers (which depend mostly on kissing up to their superiors) announce that the church building is illegal and, for the sake of “the People’s safety”, the “unsound” building must be destroyed, even though they’d previously designated the building a “model project”.

– So rank and file Christians publicly defy the local and provincial authorities, by [1] staging a sensational protest, [2] singling out the provincial Party head by name for blame, [3] appealing to higher levels of the Chinese gov’t (in this case the Chairman himself) [4] via domestic and international news media. (Using news media to apply pressure to the gov’t is common, though also dangerous.)

–> In other words, these Chinese Christians are appealing to the Chinese gov’t (President Xi Jinping) to protect their legal rights against persecutors from the Chinese gov’t (Zhejiang province Party head Xia Baolong and the local officials carrying out his orders).

If they get to keep their church building, will headlines read, “Chinese central authorities defend Christian church”? I suspect not.

wenzhouoccupychurch2 Chinese church grannies stick it to local authorities, occupy church building to save it from govt bulldozers [UPDATE]

Read the whole thing; while it may be short on solid info, it’s full of colourful anecdotes:

Sanjiang’s resistance has been organised with almost military precision. A makeshift kitchen behind the altar provides rice, pork and fried liver with leeks for those occupying the church while women hand out bottles of water and satsumas at the entrance.

By day, Christians from around the province crowd the church’s steps, with undercover security agents mingling among them, snapping photos and eavesdropping. By night, hundreds of worshippers take it in turns to keep watch, grabbing a few hours of sleep on cramped wooden pews between shifts.

Yang Zhumei, 74, said she had pleaded with officials to leave her church alone.

“I held their hands and said, “Comrades, don’t take down our cross. I can give you my head instead.”

The Christians have seen to it that the local and provincial authorities now have an embarrassing mess on their hands that will look much worse to their superiors than an overly-conspicuous church building would have. But even if the Christians win this round and keep their building, they’ll still be left with a ticked-off provincial Party head whose security forces know who every single one of those protestors is. For these Christians, things might not be easy until he retires or gets promoted.

It’s also worth comparing this to another recent local-government-hassles-legal-church-over-property incident.

Update: Demolition

(Images and quotes from this Telegraph article and @tomphillipsin.)

Near the root of this conflict are provincial and local gov’t concerns that Christianity in Wenzhou is growing out of control:

Provincial authorities deny they are waging an orchestrated campaign against Christian places of worship. However, Feng Zhili, the head of Zhejiang’s ethnic and religious affairs committee, complained earlier this year that Christianity’s spread had been “too excessive and too haphazard”.

See where this church sat along the highway:

sanjianghighway Chinese church grannies stick it to local authorities, occupy church building to save it from govt bulldozers [UPDATE]

And so they got the occupiers out and neutralized, sealed off access, and brought in the excavators:

After mounting their high-profile occupation in early April, many protesters withdrew from Sanjiang church after its leaders appeared to have negotiated a compromise with the government.

However, that deal appears to have broken down in recent days with reports that some church leaders and worshippers had been harassed and detained by security agents and officials.

“All the roads are blocked, you can’t get close to the church,” said a local Protestant leader, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals from the government.

Photographs sent to The Telegraph and posted on social media sites showed at least four excavators that appeared to be ripping down large sections of the church’s exterior.

sanjiangclose Chinese church grannies stick it to local authorities, occupy church building to save it from govt bulldozers [UPDATE]

Other images showed black police vans, military trucks and security agents standing on the main road outside.

sanjiangmilitary Chinese church grannies stick it to local authorities, occupy church building to save it from govt bulldozers [UPDATE]

Church members told The Telegraph authorities had attempted to silence the congregation and said they believed their communications were being monitored. “My phone is not safe,” said one.

Asked to comment on Monday’s demolition, a propaganda official from Zhejiang’s Communist Party Committee said, “I don’t know” before the line went dead.

(Full article here.)

sanjiangside Chinese church grannies stick it to local authorities, occupy church building to save it from govt bulldozers [UPDATE]

There are still appeals to Beijing, even from the head of China’s gov’t-controlled seminary:

In an unusual step, Chen Yilu, the head of the Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, spoke out against the provincial government’s “crude and hard-line” handling of the Sanjiang church crisis.

In a strongly-worded commentary that has been circulating online, Mr Chen said the incident would damage the Communist Party’s image as well as harming “social stability”. He called on Beijing to “intervene as soon as possible to avoid further deterioration”.

But, as they say, “The mountains are high and the emperor is far away” (皇帝).

sanjiangdown Chinese church grannies stick it to local authorities, occupy church building to save it from govt bulldozers [UPDATE]


More from this particular soapbox:

Viral one-minute Chinese sex ed video — English translation

So there are these minute-long Chinese sex ed videos that’ve gone viral on the Chinese internet. I suspect they’re actually aimed at parents, but they’re funny and well done. Here’s a translation of the first one, which compares conception to getting a shot at the doctor’s and makes fun of the classic Chinese answer to, “Where did I come from?”

chinesesexed Viral one minute Chinese sex ed video    English translation
Your mom says you were brought back from the garbage pile?

We’ve had an interest in Chinese sex ed ever since we first arrived as language students and got involved with Bright Future, a sex ed project run by an American at Tianjin University. The traditional taboo against talking about sex is still strongly felt in China, so sex ed is a special challenge. And the not-talking-about-it enables copious amounts of risky sexual behaviours and their damaging consequences (see links at the bottom), so we’re fans of creative efforts like Bright Future.

DSCN5810Chuck Viral one minute Chinese sex ed video    English translation
A hands-on Bright Future birth control class at Tianjin University

Here I’ve embedded the video from YouTube, but if you’re in China without a VPN you can also see it on Youku and Tudou. Embedded from Youku at the bottom.

(If you want to mouseover the Chinese and get instant pop-up pronunciation/translation, install this in your web browser.)

一分钟性教育(1):小孩从哪儿来?

One-minute Sex Ed #1: Where Did You Come From?

你从哪儿来的?
Where did you come from?
当然是你爸妈生的啊!
Of course your dad and mom borned you!
老师跟你说是爱情的结晶?No, no, no,
Teacher told you it was love crystals? No no no…
我们是哺乳动物又不是晶体
We are mammals, not crystal
只有受精哪来的结晶
There’s just fertilization, where’s the crystallization?
你妈跟你讲,是从垃圾堆里捡回来的?
Your mom says you were brought back from the garbage pile?
也不是,你妈记错了
Nope, your mom remembers wrong
你是从小树林里捡回来的
You were brought back from a small grove of trees
哦,不
Uh, no
你是在小树林里受精的
You were conceived in a small grove of trees*
这个受精啊
This conception
就是你爸的精子钻到你妈的卵子里去
is your dad’s sperm making its way into your mom’s ovum
你问精子怎么进去的……
You ask how does the sperm go in…
呃,医院打针见过吧?
Um, you’ve seen an injection in the hospital, right?
针头戳一下,药水推进去
The needle pokes all of sudden, and the medicine is pushed in
过程差不多
That’s the process, more or less
哦,想知道你怎么长成这么大的呀?
Oh, so you want to know how you grew up this big?
刚开始受精卵比你的头发丝还细呢
At the very start the fertilized egg was thinner than your hair
用眼睛是看不到的
Couldn’t be seen with eyes
精子那么小,所以针管一定很小?
Since the sperm is that small, so the needle must be really small?
不不不!这和注射器大小没有关系!
No! No! No! This has nothing to do with the syringe’s size!
啊,你问会不会和打针一样疼?
Ah, you’re asking does it hurt as much as an injection?
嗯,多少会疼那么一下吧
Um, I guess it will hurt like that just a bit**
总之,你要孝顺你妈,知道了吗?
Basically, you need to show filial piety to your mother, understand?
然后受精卵会分裂
Afterwards the fertilized egg will divide
一分二、二分四、四分八……
One into two, two into four, four into eight, etc.
接着呢,会形成组织器官
After that, it will take shape and organize organs
慢慢分化
Slowly differentiating
这样你就有了心肝脾肺肾,眼耳鼻舌喉等等零碎儿了
This way you have a heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, throat, etc., odds and ends
什么?你妈说确定你是从垃圾堆里捡回来的?!
What? Your mom says she’s certain you were brought back from the garbage pile?!
我擦
Censored (“I erase”)
等等,我得去跟她聊聊……
Hold on, I need to have a chat with her…

(*P.S. — “…conceived in a small grove of trees” isn’t just some random joke. In memoirs we’ve read of China’s 1980′s, it was apparently not uncommon for couples to sneak out to public parks at night to fool around because they had nowhere else to go; living quarters were crowded and lacking privacy. I’m guessing that’s what they’re alluding to.)

(**P.P.S. — How would you translate this? 嗯,多少会疼那么一下吧)

More about Sex Ed (and the lack thereof) in China:

Abortion, AIDS, prostitution and gendercide:

Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!

Here’s some “evil cult”-related translations from our daily life in Qingdao. Both sides — the local authorities and the “evil cults” — are attempting to influence public opinion through printed material. At least two locally active but unrelated groups are officially designated “evil cult” (邪教) in China. We’ve personally encountered three different cults here in Qingdao.

Evil Party!

First, here’s the juicy anti-Party tidbits from some altered currency that we’ve received in the past couple weeks (in addition to this, this, and this). I’ve got 72元 worth of this stuff now. Feel free to suggest better translations:

cultmore Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!Remember: Truth-Virtue-Tolerance is good!
FLDF is good!
When disaster comes your life is guaranteed!
The news broadcasts are all fabrications
Many common people have been deceived
FLDF saves the people of the world
You can only survive by sincerity and honesty

cult02cultmonetake2 Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
The Party plucks organs live from FLG practitioners
Sold off at a high price, the list of crimes reaches to heaven
Organ transplant matching is difficult
Outside China people have to wait two or three years
Inside China they only need one or two weeks
Where does this huge number of organs come from?
Irrefutable evidence of crime is like heaven’s blessing (?)

more cult Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
Quit the Party Team sign your name:
The evil CCP harms all living things
Inciting the masses to fight the masses
Killing 80 million of my compatriots
Unjustified persecution of FLG
Every offense cannot be pardoned
Heaven’s fury and people’s enmity will extinguish the Party

cultfiver Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
Peace to the Party-Quitting Team
Heaven will extinguish the Party
The Party-Quitting Team is the most intelligent
Heaven extinguishing the Party is an inexorably destined fate
Anyone wanting to save [the Party] is completely in vain
The Party is thoroughly finished

10cult Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
Truth-Virtue-Tolerance is good
FLDF is good
The net of justice is extensive
[It will] settle accounts with Jiang Zemin

cult20 Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
Truth-Virtue-Tolerance is good! FLDF is good!
Sincerity, respect and care get karmic reward (?)
Harmonious society is high-flown rhetoric
Persecution of DF, Heaven is unforgiving
Quickly find the real facts, quickly quit the Party
Choose a future that has karmic reward

20kuai Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
FLDF is good
Truth-Virture-Tolerance is good

cult01handwrittencultmoney Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
Remember FLDF is good, Truth-Virture-Tolerance is good,
Good fortune bestowed by heaven, guarantee of wellness

Evil Cult!

Second, the latest from our neighbourhood’s “Anti Evil Cult Warning & Education Propaganda Board” (邪教警示教育宣传), courtesy of the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association (青岛邪教协会) and the Qingdao Office of Guarding Against and Dealing With the Evil Cult Problem (青岛防范处理邪教问题办公室). I feel safer already. As you can see, they really put their heart into these public education campaigns:

20131029 442 cult03board Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
Anti Evil Cult Warning & Education Propaganda Board

I’d share what the second anti evil cult poster says (on the left), but it’s buried underneath vandalized neighbourhood committee election notices (apparently someone has issues; election-related stuff on every notice board got defaced).

Now here’s a picky but important detail: The posters below are not about the “evil cult” that stamps the money. However, the previous batch of evil cult posters was, as were the posters we had in Tianjin. The posters below, currently on display in our neighbourhood, are for the other “evil cult”: the Eastern Lightning/Almighty God cult.

Not all “evil cults” are created equal, and these two “evil cults” are not related. I’ve read from non-gov’t sources about the violence, deception, seduction and brainwashing of the group in the posters below. But that doesn’t apply (so far as I know) to the money-stamping group. So for the sake of fairness and accuracy, keep that in mind. Of these two groups, Eastern Lightning/Almighty God comes closer to earning its official “evil cult” designation. (There are links to info on each group at the bottom.)

Anyway, let’s see what we’ve got here…

20131029 436 cult04poster Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
See Through (discern, penetrate) the Evil Cult “Almighty God”

20131029 437 cult05detail Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
Immorally Amass Wealth by Scamming People into “Becoming Believers”
This organization employs lies to dupe, violence to intimidate, money to bribe, eroticism to seduce, etc. to draw people into becoming believers, as well as the so-called “Leaving family, parents, wife, husband and children now is entering the start of the spiritual world,” conspiring with believers to abandoned family, cast off family and give up occupations to go out to “evangelize”. In the name of “sacrificial funds” they exploit their members’ wealth, even to the point of inciting believers to sell off family property and live in a collective so as to welcome the arrival of “Almighty God.” For this reason, some believers might go far from their hometowns, with no news of them at all for several years, or sell off family property and without exception dedicate it to the religious leader, causing the family’s elderly to have no one to support them, the children to have no one to look after them. The originally harmony-ful family is shattered.

20131029 438 cult06detail Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
From top, left to right: Lies to Deceive: “You must obey to get rebirth” / Violence to Intimidate / Immorally Amass Wealth: “sacrificial funds” / Money to Bribe: “First give you 200元” / Sexually Seduce: “Join our church and you can enjoy…”

20131029 439 cult08adetail Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
They will separate the believer from social life, disseminate “Doomsday” rumours. “Communicating with the outside world is forbidden! Await the coming ‘Doomsday’!”

20131029 441 cult07detail1 Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
Promote “Doomsday Rumours” and Create Social Panic
The “Almighty God” cult organization makes an extreme effort to imprison believers’ thinking, isolating them from normal social life, disseminating “Doomsday” rumours, and creating panic in society. Their backwards and perverse way of doing things has caused the People’s mass livelihood and to receive severe interference, and the social stability and unity situation has suffered serious damage.

20131029 440 cult08bdetail Propaganda fight: Evil Chinese Cults vs. the Qingdao Anti Evil Cult Association!
Conscientiously Resist the Evil “Almighty God” Cult
The numerous People’s masses have a duty to recognize “Almighty God”-type evil cult organizations’ harm, earnestly strengthen wariness and consciousness, conscientiously resist “Almighty God” evil cult’s corrosion, achieve no listening, no believing, no propagating, if you discover or come across evil cult members disturbing and bewitching, distributing illegal publications or such other illegal activities, actively report and expose, without delay dial 110 and report to the police, safeguard our harmonious and stable happy livelihood.

On Chinese authorities’ actual methods for dealing with undesirable groups:

Required reading:

More about “Evil Cult” #1:

More about “Evil Cult” #2:

More “evil cult” money:

“Communist” China summed up in one bumper sticker

Passed this on the way out this morning:

xiangqiankan Communist China summed up in one bumper sticker
我们的目标
Our goal: look to money, look to thick profits

Chairman Mao, as some stories have it, refused to even touch money. After his death, Deng Xiaoping launched China’s ‘Reform and Opening’ and ‘Modernization’ Era under the slogans: “Liberate thinking, seek truth from facts, join together and unanimously look forward” (解放思想实事求是团结一致). He probably meant “look forward” to mean something like, “let’s not dwell on all that nonsense of the past few decades, but instead get on with making a better future.” The bumper sticker simply switches out “front” (前 qián) for “money” (钱 qián), turning “look forward” into “look to money” — both phrases are pronounced exactly the same: xiàng qián kàn.

20140113 275 Communist China summed up in one bumper stickerThere are a million anecdotes to illustrate the way Mainland Chinese unapologetically prioritize money. The most recent one is from some study reported in a magazine (I forget which), indicating that Chinese tie material wealth to happiness at more than twice the global average.

P.S. – I suspect there’s more to the bumper sticker, but that’s all I’ve got for now.

P.P.S. – Here’s a Chinese forum thread admiring the same slogan on a custom license plate: 我的目标-向钱看-向厚赚-牛B720

P.P.P.S – What would the equivalent bumper sticker say in your home country, if it were equally honest?

P.P.P.P.S. – Like Propaganda?