May 20, 2000
WHAT SHOULD AMERICA DO ABOUT CHINESE PERSECUTION?
WASHINGTON This city has turned its attention to
a rare religious debate: what should be done about China's persecution of
Christians, Buddhists and others?
Both sides agree on the facts.''This is a period
of horrendous, horrific setbacks in religious freedom,'' says Nina Shea of
Freedom House. ''Thousands of Falun Gong members have been beaten to death
in prisons. Five or six Catholic bishops have been imprisoned.'' Elliott
Abrams, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, adds, ''There have
been 1,000 monks thrown out of monasteries in Tibet. A Catholic priest was
arrested while saying Mass, jailed and his dead body found on the street.''
The new U.S. Commission on International
Religious Freedom, concluded in its first annual report: ''Congress should
grand China Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status only after China
makes substantial improvement in respect for religious freedom.''
That improvement would be measured by such
standards as opening a ''high-level and continuing dialogue with the U.S. on
religious freedom issues, permit the Commission and human rights
organizations access to religious leaders including those imprisoned (or)
release from prison all religious prisoners.''
It also demanded that the Congress hold annual
hearings on human rights and religious freedom in China and invite the Dalai
Lama to address a Joint Session of Congress.
Rev. Richard Cizik, Vice President of the
National Association of Evangelicals, who led the battle to create the
Commission, says, ''We agree that this has been one of the worst years ever.
Remember China is not lobbying for PNTR, but our business establishment who
will benefit from it,'' because tariffs in China will come down, making it
easier to sell U.S. products there.
''It is not simple old fashioned greed that
motivates me. I happen to think that the evidence of change over 25 years,
from the time I lived there, is due to obvious economic forces and is not
the result of political relaxation.''
J. Stapleton Roy, America's Ambassador to China
from 1991-1995, is the son of Christian missionaries, who were there from
1930 till 1951 when Communists took over. When he was first returned to
China as a young diplomat in 1978, there were only two Christian churches in
Beijing, one Catholic, one Protestant, attended almost exclusively by
''By the time I went back in 1991 there were a
large number of active congregations, both Catholic and Protestant, which
were large and filling to overflow. There are now 40 to 50 million
Christians in China,'' most of whom worship in ''house churches'' that are
not legally recognized.
Economic progress fueled this growth of freedom.
How? He recalls that food used to be in such short supply that rationing
coupons were given to the people - but only where they lived. If one moved,
he did not have access to enough food to eat. Price reforms in the 1980's
ended the shortage of supply, and the government's control on movement of
individuals. Now tens of millions move from areas of job shortages to areas
of growth. Millions of Chinese have gotten passports and travel abroad,
which used to be unthinkable.
Rev. Daniel B. Su, of China Outreach Ministries,
testified to the Ways & Means Committee this week that PNTR and China's
entrance into the World Trade Organization ''will initiate a dynamic process
of change in China with far reaching consequences. It will greatly
contribute to creating a conducive environment for promoting international
norms, the rule of law and individual rights and freedom.
''The WTO agreement obligates China to play by
the rules. In the process, China will learn to follow international legal
procedures and educate its people about the concept of rights, law and
international norms. This process in itself is a breakthrough with important
philosophical implications for China as a nation.''
Billy Graham wrote to Congress, ''I believe it
is far better for us to thoughtfully strengthen positive aspects of our
relationship with China than to treat it as an adversary. It is my
experience that nations respond to friendship just as much as people do.''
A number of leaders of China's underground
''House Church'' wired support to Rep. Joe Pitts. Xu Yong-Ling wrote that
China's joining WTO ''will speed up China's reform of its political system,
helping China solve its problems such as self-isolation, bureaucracy and
Key committees in the House and Senate
overwhelmingly endorsed the legislation Wednesday, which suggests a
likelihood of overall passage by Congress next week.
Copyright 2000 Michael J. McManus.