Chinese Christians

American media ignore 'Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,' the anthem of Hong Kong's protests

American media ignore 'Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,' the anthem of Hong Kong's protests

There are two million people marching in the streets of Hong Kong these days, which is one-quarter of the population of the entire city-state that is China’s last bastion of freedom. This fabulous video from TeamBlackSheep shows you a little of what it’s been like.

Not only was a controversial law at stake that would have greatly impacted what little freedoms Hong Kong Chinese have these days, but the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre was just two weeks ago.

What hasn’t been reported on by much of the international media in Hong Kong these days is how a song from the 1970s Jesus movement has become, for many, the anthem of the pro-democracy movement. Here’s a report from Shanghaiist.com that contains a bunch of videos of folks singing this hymn.

Remember, English is not their first language, which makes it all the more compelling:

A hymn sung by Christian groups participating in the ongoing anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong has caught on and become the quasi anthem of the movement.

Composed in 1974, the song is sung in a minor key, and notable for its simplicity and catchiness due to its repeated harmonies of just one phrase.

Alarmed by reports of police brutality, many church groups galvanized to participate in peace protests, calling on the authorities to stop the violence.

Their presence on the front lines of the protests were helpful in making the demonstrations look more like an outdoor worship service rather than the “organized riots” the government said it had to crack down on to bring back law and order.

“Outdoor worship services?”

Why hasn’t anyone reported on this? I saw tiny mentions in foreign media, like in The Economist, but that’s about it in the secular media. Oh, and German broadcaster Deutsche Welle said this:

"Sing Hallelujah to the Lord" has become a hit across Hong Kong in the past few days, and it's the first thing I heard as I made my way to Sunday's anti-extradition bill protest.

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Religious persecution: Why not cover all groups feeling Beijing's wrath, not just Protestants?

Religious persecution: Why not cover all groups feeling Beijing's wrath, not just Protestants?

It seems that hardly a week goes by without China ramping up its campaign to mold domestic religious expression to its liking, and with some member of the international media elite taking a hard look at Beijing’s anti-religion policies.

Last week, Britain’s The Guardian newspaper took on the task. It’s grade? Let’s just say it achieved less than a perfect score. I’ll get to the widely circulated story’s (online, that is) limitations in a moment. But first let’s give it what praise it also deserves.

The piece focused on China’s Christians, or more accurately, on China’s Protestant Christians.

In this regard, the story was passable. It included the current talk out of China that the government intends to rewrite the Bible — though just which version is left unnamed — to suit its propaganda purposes. (In September, the online, evangelical website the Christian Post reported that both testaments were to be reworked to the government's liking, meaning more in line with its policies.)

Still, any story that draws attention to China’s hyper-paranoid approach toward religious expression is, in my book, a good thing, despite its shortcomings.

Only by hammering the point home again and again can outside pressure be brought to bear on Beijing’s policies, if, in fact, that’s even currently possible. (For example, don't expect President Donald Trump to ratchet up such pressure; for him and most world leaders relations with China are all about trade and financial investment).

The Guardian story led with the case of the Early Rain Covenant Church, one of China’s so-called “underground,” or non-government approved, congregations. Here’s the story’s top.

In late October, the pastor of one of China’s best-known underground churches asked this of his congregation: had they successfully spread the gospel throughout their city? “If tomorrow morning the Early Rain Covenant Church suddenly disappeared from the city of Chengdu, if each of us vanished into thin air, would this city be any different? Would anyone miss us?” said Wang Yi, leaning over his pulpit and pausing to let the question weigh on his audience. “I don’t know.”

Almost three months later, Wang’s hypothetical scenario is being put to the test. The church in south-west China has been shuttered and Wang and his wife, Jiang Rong, remain in detention after police arrested more than 100 Early Rain church members in December.

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South China Morning Post covers church split over democracy movement

South China Morning Post covers church split over democracy movement

Three years ago, we covered the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and how many Christians were involved in those protests. Three years later, churches are still split over it and the South China Morning Post provides the latest update.

As you read it, think of the similarities between the stories of these Chinese and the more familiar (to us in the States) stories of Americans who likewise got involved in politics during last year’s elections.

In both cases, the questions are the same. What belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar?

It was a Sunday in late September and Reverend Philip Woo was enjoying his day of rest, taking afternoon tea with a friend at the Admiralty Centre, blissfully unaware of the higher plan God had for him that day – to play his part in a movement that would go on to shape Hong Kong’s political history.
Across the road from Woo, a founder of the civil disobedience movement Occupy Central, Benny Tai, was preparing to rally protesters outside the Central Government Complex, setting in motion a 79-day demonstration in which tens of thousands of Hongkongers would block roads in the business district to demand the right to democratically elect their leader, the chief executive. It was a demonstration that would polarise Hong Kong, strain the city’s relationship with the mainland Chinese government, and leave a question mark for years to come about the political future of the famously free-wheeling former British colony.
Back in 2014, from his table on the second floor at the Admiralty Centre, Woo could not see Tai and the protesters gathering – any more than he could have foreseen the countless twists and turns the political saga would one day take. But he could hear them, and a little voice inside him told him to investigate.
Once on the street, he could see clearly. He could see the crowds forming, and he could see the mounting ranks of riot police. And when he saw those same policemen firing tear gas into the assembled masses one thing became clear in his mind: that his faith in God demanded he act.

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Check out South China Morning Post: a good source for all things religious in Asia

Check out South China Morning Post: a good source for all things religious in Asia

Every so often it’s nice to give some credit to publications that do good work on the religion reporting front and I may have found a new source or, at the very least, one I have not run into before on this topic. We're talking about The South China Morning Post, published in Hong Kong.

I’ve run across it in recent weeks while looking for information on China, but the SCMP reports on a huge swath of South Asia well beyond China’s borders. And I’ve found a huge trove of religion-oriented pieces, including quite a bit on China’s response to ISIS’ involvement with Muslims in its western provinces. Click here for a piece on the Chinese jihadis in Syria. 

This major newsroom has also done a recent piece on how the Communist Party’s tentacles are still trying to influence Tibetan Buddhists. 

The SCMP has reached into neighboring Malaysia to explore why, for Muslims there, child sex is forbidden but child marriage is OK.  It just reviewed a book on why the death of Mao Tse-tung opened the gates for religion to flourish in China. And the newspaper has documented the government crackdown on Christianity, noting in a recent piece that, after officials ordered crosses torn down from 360 or so church towers, they have now ordered surveillance cameras set up inside churches in heavily Christian Wenzhou.

Christians and government ­officials have come to blows over demands that churches in a city known as “China’s Jerusalem” ­install surveillance cameras for “anti-terrorism and security ­purposes”.
The Zhejiang government issued the orders to ­churches in Wenzhou late last year and began implementing them before the Lunar New Year ­holiday in January.
The confrontation with the city’s Christian community, which is estimated to number roughly one million, comes three years after the authorities ordered the removal of crosses on top of church buildings, on the grounds that they were illegal structures. Opponents called the 2014 ­campaign religious persecution.

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Chinese 'evangelical Trumplicanism?' Vancouver Sun floats a totally new buzz word

Chinese 'evangelical Trumplicanism?' Vancouver Sun floats a totally new buzz word

Sometimes there’s an unusual religious group out there that reporters don’t have the contacts or the linguistic abilities to crack. One such group are the 100,000 Chinese Christians in Vancouver, B.C. They’re too large to ignore but if you don’t know Chinese, it’s tough to get an entrée.

Actually, Vancouver has 400,000 Chinese total, so the 100,000 estimate may be a bit low. And so Douglas Todd, the religion blogger for the Vancouver Sun, has found a way around this problem by engaging a bilingual scholar who can interpret this people group.

What do you know? Todd discovered -- taking American politics all the way outside our borders -- that these folks are very pro-Trump. The larger question: Why does this matter and how it this linked to larger religion issues?

Here’s what he wrote last week:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is getting support from an unusual source -- Chinese evangelicals in Canada.
Social media in Canada is ablaze with Chinese Christians coming out in support of the bombastic would-be strongman. Trump’s Chinese supporters see him as a beacon of authoritarian stability in a world that could be headed towards apocalypse. The Chinese Christians also think Trump could ensure their ongoing prosperity.
“Trump … is (seen as) a dose of strong law-and-order medicine on the world stage,” says Assistant Prof Justin Tse, who studied Metro Vancouver’s more than 400,000 ethnic Chinese while obtaining his PhD in geography at the University of B.C.
Some Chinese evangelicals in Canada are supporting Trump to “ensure the stability of global markets through authoritarian law-and-order regimes,” says Tse, a visiting assistant professor in the Asian American Studies Program of Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, Chicago.
At my request, Tse wrote up a short analysis of Trump’s Chinese-evangelical support, in which he refers to the cohort as “Trumplicans.”

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Foreign Policy magazine: Chinese students in U.S. are converting like crazy

Foreign Policy magazine: Chinese students in U.S. are converting like crazy

Several years ago while teaching a course at the University of Maryland, I became aware of a group of Chinese Americans who took it on themselves to personally welcome every international Chinese student to the school. They’d do airport pick-ups, get-togethers, parties and field trips.

It was a godsend for the new arrivals in more ways than one. First, they instantly had a group of friends that spoke their language.

Secondly, this group was made up of evangelical Christians whose mission was to see that before these students returned to China four years later, they’d gotten exposure to a Christianity they’d never get to see in their native land. I was dimly aware of similar groups doing similar outreaches on other campuses, but not until I saw a pair of articles from Foreign Policy magazine on foreignpolicy.com, did I realize how wide the evangelistic net is spread.

The magazine has come up with two very detailed stories of how Chinese students are flooding into private secondary U.S. schools with the full knowledge and blessing of their atheist parents and how the vast amounts of Chinese studying in American universities have turned out to be an enormous mission field for American Christian groups. The first piece starts thus:

It is no secret that Chinese students are pouring into the United States; over 300,000 of them attended U.S. colleges and universities in 2015 alone, and Chinese are filling up spots in U.S secondary schools in search of a better education and an easier route into U.S. universities. Less widely known is that at the secondary level, most Chinese attend Christian schools -- even though they come from the world’s largest atheist state.

Because of restrictions on foreign student enrollment in U.S. public high schools, Chinese secondary students headed Stateside overwhelmingly attend private institutions. And Chinese parents don’t seem to care if that institution has a Christian underpinning.

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