Things That Are Awesome (Fushan, Qingdao edition 青岛浮山)

Things That Are Awesome (in sharply descending degrees of awesomeness):

#2. The views on top of Qingdao’s Fushan mountain (浮山).

FushanviewQingdaoshibei Things That Are Awesome (Fushan, Qingdao edition 青岛浮山)

#3. Those portable personal fanny-pack radios popular in Mainland China.

#4. Those portable personal fanny-pack radios popular in Mainland China on top of Qingdao’s Fushan mountain.

#5. Those portable personal fanny-pack radios popular in Mainland China on top of Qingdao’s Fushan mountain playing We Are The World:

Aaaaand…. #1! Those portable personal fanny-pack radios popular in Mainland China on top of Qingdao’s Fushan mountain playing When a Man Loves a Woman when you’ve hiked up there to celebrate your 12th anniversary.

Snogging pics in

3…

2…

1…

Fushansnogging01 Things That Are Awesome (Fushan, Qingdao edition 青岛浮山)
Fushansnogging02 Things That Are Awesome (Fushan, Qingdao edition 青岛浮山)
fushansnogging03 Things That Are Awesome (Fushan, Qingdao edition 青岛浮山)
fushansnogging04 Things That Are Awesome (Fushan, Qingdao edition 青岛浮山)

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.

When little foreign kids go to a Chinese beach…

…this happens. It doesn’t always happen exactly the same way, but what happened this past weekend is pretty typical:


(Language students! Listen for these key words:
洋娃娃可爱眼睛漂亮美女姐姐玩儿。)

I know we’re not the only foreigners in China that regularly attract this kind of attention from total strangers. How do you handle it?

In North America, if some stranger started taking pictures of little kids at the beach or wherever I would automatically interfere and probably call the police. Because that behaviour is outside our norms; chances are too high the person is a creep.

oooyangwawa When little foreign kids go to a Chinese beach...
Our two-year-old, with… I don’t know who.

But what about in China, when photographing, talking to, and even trying to pick up a stranger’s kid isn’t considered odd? I don’t mean that Mainlanders are always running around posing with each other’s toddlers; other Chinese toddlers aren’t exotic to them. And I don’t mean that China doesn’t have its fair share of perverts. I mean that this behaviour isn’t seen as violating anyone’s privacy or personal space. When it does happen, the idea that the person’s a pedophile doesn’t even enter people’s minds. 99% of the time, they really are just being friendly and curious in a socially acceptable way. (They don’t perceive an ever-present pedophile threat like North Americans do; their society just hasn’t caught up to ours, apparently…)

pantslessbro When little foreign kids go to a Chinese beach...
“Wa! The foreign doll is so cute!” “Wa! The Chinese boy has no pants!”

It is stupid to respond coldly or meanly to a Chinese person because they don’t behave according to North American norms. Actually, that’s being an ethnocentric jerk. You’ve got to understand what their behaviour means within their social context, because that’s where you are. If you’re going to treat people like they’re doing something wrong when they genuinely don’t think they’re doing anything wrong, then you’d better be able to articulate a really good reason (or have a good reason why you have to treat them that way regardless — but “It’s so annoying!” is not a good reason).

usualsuspects When little foreign kids go to a Chinese beach...
A typical crowd for our family, from two weekends ago. Compare to the next photo below.

But feeling annoyed is totally understandable and natural. And not all friendly and curious attention is the same, because Mainland China is not a monolithic society:

  • The more cosmopolitan Chinese are more likely to ask you before taking pictures of your kids. Bonus points for them!
  • Typical 2nd-tier city urbanites with leisure time on a Saturday behave like in the above video: form a crowd, take photos, try to hold hands, touch your kid’s face, pick up or otherwise pose with your kid — like the kid’s part-human, part-tourist attraction. If often starts with some mom or grandma trying to get their kid to make friendly and pose with your kid. Collecting photos is a thing here. These are the majority in our experience in Qingdao and Tianjin. I understand getting annoyed with this, and I understand looking for ways to counter it, but I can’t see how it’s right to respond to them like they’re doing something wrong.
  • Peasants (people from the countryside or inland cities) either hang way back, seemingly intimidated, or do like the urbanites but louder, coarser, more blunt. Like yelling at your kid from a few feet away so they’ll turn for a picture, as if they’re a zoo animal: “Hey! Look at me! Look over here! Hey!”
  • The worst (in our experience) are those who don’t attempt to communicate with you or your kid and won’t acknowledge you even if you address them in Chinese. One day I was playing with our youngest in the waves, and a middle-aged countryside woman runs over, grabs our youngest while yelling to her friend to come take a picture, oblivious to our daughter’s efforts to get away — as if she’d just caught a big fish! — and to me yelling at her. I grabbed my daughter back while giving the woman an earful, but she never looked me in the face. This kind of thing almost never happens.

The problem is that for the most part they aren’t doing anything wrong, but to us foreigners it feels wrong, like we have a right to be annoyed or offended or alarmed (and in our own countries we would). So our default tendency is to respond negatively because to us their behaviour is inappropriate. And some days you just want to relax at the beach without having to deal with it! Some days, you feel like doing this:

moatfull When little foreign kids go to a Chinese beach...
I have mixed feelings about the moat; it just seems so… anti-social:
“Take a hint, people!”

Bad China Days and fits of anti-social sandcastle-building aside, here’s what we aim for:

  1. Kids’ physical safety does not get compromised. We are there, fully alert, creep radar running on Chinese and Western dual frequencies, ready to wield those shovels if necessary. And call me ethnocentric or whatever, but you are not sticking your finger in my kid’s mouth (yes I have batted fingers away.)
  2. If our kids indicate (verbally or non-verbally), or we suspect, that they don’t want the attention, then we fend people off immediately/preemptively. You can still do this politely and with finesse, though sometimes in the moment I’m more blunt than I should be. And this only applies to “special” attention; we expect our kids to be nominally decent to people (respond to normal greetings, say thank-you, etc).
  3. Plan ahead. If you’ve got an option where unwanted attention is less likely, then take it. When we go to the beach, we always aim for the least crowded areas.

Or you can send subtle, anti-social messages by doing things like making a moat around your picnic blanket:

moateffective When little foreign kids go to a Chinese beach...
It works! See? (Though it’s not 100% effective — such subtlety is lost on most domestic tourists and āyís over 45.)

Maybe that sounds kind of stringent. But in practice it translates into our kids getting a lot more interaction than the average foreigner family, I suspect.

Basically, we protect our kids, but (try to) remember that most of these “overly-friendly” (by paranoid North American standards) Chinese strangers aren’t doing anything wrong. They aren’t breaking their social rules, and if you respond to them like they’re being inappropriate, your response simply won’t communicate. And you’ll come off like a jerk. Which is understandable, since expecting local Chinese to behave like Euro-Americans is just dumb.

Some related stuff:

P.S. - Though sometimes I have to admit, I do wonder…

igoticeland1 When little foreign kids go to a Chinese beach...

P.P.S. – Not actually recommending the sandcastle “spite fence”, though I’m definitely tempted to use it again. :)

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

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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:

Being Obnoxious With Monks

Actually, it was a nun, and I was arguing with her handlers. It was an irate customer who was yelling directly at the nun. (It looked like the customer got some money back in the end, but I couldn’t tell for sure — she’s in the orange jacket, near the centre of the photo.)

suanmingnun01 1024x613 Being Obnoxious With Monks

A Buddhist fortune-teller eyes my camera in a Qingdao market.

Usually my conversations with Buddhists and Daoists are mostly me asking questions. I try to nail down what they actually think, and get a sense of how their beliefs and practices function in their lives. Because I want to understand them; I want to understand the worldviews we encounter on their own terms. (The “high” Buddhism and Daoism we studied in school seems to have precious little to do with the Buddhism and Daoism we regularly encounter at street level in China.) Since there are lots of little god shops around, when I have a few extra minutes I stop in to chat. It’s never been confrontational. Until the other day.

My almost 5-year-old daughter and I have just finished lunch in the market. We’re going to buy trees to plant in the public grass/dirt area outside our first-floor apartment’s windows. I have a bag of tomato and húlu (葫芦) seedlings in one hand and my daughter’s hand in the other.

There’s a crowd around something on the sidewalk. Actually most of the street and sidewalk is basically one big crowd, but Something is Happening up ahead. I peer down into the circle of heads (6’4″ lǎowài can do this in China) to discover a Buddhist nun doing what’s called 算命, where they tell your fortune and then, for a fee, perform rituals to help you avoid the bad things headed your way. (Apparently, so my friends tell me, you pay even more if your future predictions are good.)

suanmingnun02 764x1024 Being Obnoxious With Monks

Reading futures, selling fortune

Judging by the surrounding interest, this seems like a minor Big Deal, so I pull out my phone and start taking pictures.
suanmingnun04 Being Obnoxious With Monks

Claiming a patch of sidewalk.

Wish I’d taken video; it’d be fun to have this exchange recorded:

“No! No! You can’t take pictures!”

(A handler comes toward me waving her hands.)

“Why not?”

(I wish I’d kept taking pictures.)

“You can’t take pictures of this. It’s bad for your ___.”

(Wish I could remember the exact term she used, but the idea is that me taking pictures of this nun in action would negatively affect my life/fate/etc.)

“No problem! I don’t believe in this superstition.”

(I’m feeling a little ornery. I don’t know why. Maybe being born on the Protestant side of the Reformation means I have a low tolerance for people selling indulgences. Or maybe (yes, actually) it’s because my hands are full, I’m with my daughter, and I’m in increasing need of a public restroom. At least I didn’t use the Mao Era term “feudal superstition” 封建迷信。)

“You can’t take pictures! This is a problem of belief.”

“Right, I don’t believe this. But what are you afraid of? This is a public–“

“We don’t have the same belief. In your country you all–“

(This is common point of worldview disconnect. In China, many people consider your heritage a perfectly valid reason for believing something; in the West, it’s usually the opposite — telling someone they only believe something because of their heritage is a way of saying that person has no good reasons to believe what they claim. Because — speaking very generally — when a North American says they “believe in X”, they usually mean they “think X is true”, but a Chinese using the same phrase isn’t necessarily making a truth claim. Personal convictions about the true nature of Life, the Universe and Everything (and ‘staying true to yourself’) just aren’t as high a value in China, compared with, say, getting along and getting by. And when personal convictions do matter to a Chinese, it can come off as really selfish. Anyway, it sometimes rubs my fur the wrong way when people assume that I think what I think for (what I think is) no good reason.)

“This has nothing to do with my country. Why can’t I take pictures? What are you afraid of?”

(I’m in a hurry, I suspect this whole thing is a scam, and I’m curious what objections they’ll raise since they couldn’t make me fear for my fate. But now the argument that’s been simultaneously happening on the opposite side of the crowd erupts into yelling and accusations of cheating people out of their money. The crowd starts thinning out, maybe feeling a little awkward between me/my camera on one side and the irate customer on the other. If you look closely at the above photos, to the the fortune-teller’s right you’ll see three handlers wearing hats facing away — they’re dealing with the angry woman, whose face can be seen in all the three crowd shots.)

suanmingnun03 764x1024 Being Obnoxious With Monks

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: