Religion, contrary to popular belief, is not illegal in the People’s Republic of China. In fact it is explicitly protected by the 1982 Constitution, with the condition that only state sanctioned religions have the right to operate in the country under the strict supervision of the Chinese Communist Party’s office of religious affairs, with those who worship outside state bodies – like Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhism, and the Catholic Church – facing imprisonment, torture, and execution. Yet in spite of the Party’s war on the backwardness of superstition the Chinese people are turning to religious practice in their hundreds of millions.
It is estimated that there are presently eighty million Christians who practice their faith in China, and that by mid-century there will be more Christians in China than in any other country in the world. Today the number of legal Christians dwarf the membership of the Chinese Communist Party, and the reason why the government has not cracked down on these as it has done with Falun Gong is the very real fear that they will join with the vast number of Christians who practice their faith illegally. The global reach and power of Christianity has always served to protect Christians – to some degree – within the People’s Republic, but this protection has not been afforded other religious groups.
Earlier today a friend – a visiting student to Ireland from China – told me of a dangerous cult, guilty of serious and inhuman crimes in China. She told me that this wicked group, Falun Gong, was making itself at home in Ireland. Duly warned, and aware of Falun Gong in Dublin, I did some homework. It transpires that not a single shred of credible evidence exists for the crimes of Falun Gong, and that the Chinese state broadcaster was successfully sued in the United States for fabrications leading to the persecution of innocent people. Falun Gong had been perfectly legal in China until it grew larger than the Communist Party and became in pawn in Premier Jiang Zemin’s power games in the late 90s. Now public beatings of practitioners by state security forces, dehumanisation by the media, arrest, torture, and murder have become the order of the day.
In terms of arrests and legal executions Atheism has been a huge success in the PR China, but these achievements have been outstripped by the numbers of people turning to religion in the country. Numbers of Christians have more than doubled since the 1970s, and membership of Falun Gong is now well in excess of a hundred million and growing both in China and around the world. State violence against faith in China is failing miserably; with millions of Chinese people now stating their protest against the totalitarian régime by turning to religious practices and dangerous non-violent ethics.