(Lhasa, Tibet—Dec. 13, 2011) In a historic first, 11 members of a house church in Tibet were criminally detained and held for nearly a month before being released, ChinaAid has learned.
The 11 Christians, led by Brother Song Kuanxin from Zhumadian in Henan province, were taken in by Lhasa police in the days before and after China’s National Day on October 1. This is believed to be the first time that authorities in Tibet have moved against house church Christians.
Police took Song into custody on Oct. 5, and on Oct. 7, he received official notification that he was being criminally detained “on suspicion of [being part of a] cult group.” He was held with convicted felons, and was later notified that his detention was being extended to 30 days for “committing crimes everywhere.” While Song was in detention, police officers blasphemed and insulted his faith and repeatedly beat him.
On Nov. 11, after being forced to write a guarantee, Song was released early. However, he was told that all the belongings that police had confiscated from his home, including two laptops, were considered tools for his criminal activities and had been destroyed.
ChinaAid strongly condemns the Lhasa authorities for suppressing house churches and for discriminatory persecution of Christians. We call on churches worldwide, especially churches in China, to pray for and support and support these Christian. The church in Tibet will certainly grow quickly in the face of persecution. This is the wondrous phenomenon that has repeatedly occurred in the 2000 year history of the church worldwide.
Please read the narrative of Song Xinkuan below.
I. On the afternoon of October 5, the fifth day after the National Day Holiday of 2011, I returned from inland China to my home in Lhasa which is a rental place. I was shocked to see the inside of my house in complete chaos. Furniture and items were scattered all over the floor. The first thought that crossed my mind is my place had been burgled. As we were going to call 110(the emergency number) to report the crime right away, our front door was shut closed. A person who identified himself as a police officer dashed straight into our room and said that we didn’t need to call 110 because the chaos was created by them and he would be responsible for it. I asked, “Why did you do this?” He told me that I would find out why when his boss arrived. Then he claimed that our house was an illegal location for gatherings, etc. I said, “Christianity is one of the five major religions in China. Doesn’t our Constitution say that citizens have the freedom of religious beliefs? When Lhasa, Tibet was notified about the grand celebration of National Day, Christians have scattered and met in locations close to their homes for worship and fellowship. Why is our gathering still illegal? Haven’t we applied many times to government agencies concerning religious affairs for venues of religious activities?” He replied that he was not clear about these issues and that I could ask his boss later. I asked him if the Constitution of China and the Ethnic and Religious Management Regulations of the State Council were not applicable in Lhasa, Tibet. He lost his patience and replied, “No, they don’t apply here.” I was shocked by how this law enforcement person interpreted laws and regulations.
I dialed 110 anyway and reported my case because I wasn’t sure if the “police office” in front of me was real or fake and the stability maintenance situation in Lhasa had always been somewhat complicated. So I explained to the “police officer” about my concerns and dialed 110. Meanwhile I asked him why they entered into our home illegally when we were not home and if it was a legal procedure to burst into civilians’ house in their absence. I asked, “Do you have a search warrant? Are all the personal belongings you confiscated from my house illegal items? Do you have a list of the items you confiscated from my house?” He would not answer my questions directly and only said, “Don’t ask too many questions. You’ll find out what happened when my boss gets here.”
My wife and two little children were still in shock and did not understand what had happened. After a short while, a female boss showed up. She was even more simplistic and direct in her communication. She simply said, “You have no choice but unconditionally obey and cooperate with us.” Therefore, I was taken out of my home by two to three police officers who were all plainclothes. Right at this moment, 110 patrolmen got to my house, so I asked them to follow legal proceedings to take pictures of my ransacked house and collect evidence. The plainclothes yelled at them to stop them. Then they escorted me to their vehicle and took me to the office of National Security Protection Agency(NSPA) instead of municipal police station.
At the NSPA office, the officer I met at the very beginning and his young coworker said they would interrogate me according to the law and I was demanded to truthfully answer the questions they were going to ask. I said, “Christianity is a legal religion. Why do you keep saying that we (Christians) are illegal?” They would not allow me to defend or explain for myself and insisted that I answer their questions. In the meantime, another office joined the interrogation, and then the female boss joined us too. The questions they asked became so strange that I did not have answers for them. They asked about some people and events that I had no knowledge of, and they emphasized repeatedly that Christianity is not only illegal in Tibet, but also is an alleged cult that undermines ethnic unity and social stability. I had to state repeatedly that Christianity is a legal religion anywhere in China and I asked them how it had become illegal in Lhasa, Tibet or even an alleged cult? Then I saw the officers start to be consumed by rage. They reached out their hands to rub my face roughly, pointed their fingers at my forehead and nose, and started to hurls insults. In their mouths, Christianity was dirty and stinky; Christians were bullies depending on the power of their masters; they were scums who spread swiftly in Lhasa, Tibet, like crazy dogs, and had severely undermined ethnic unity and social stability, etc. In their verbal outbursts, they exhausted all insulting and discriminatory words available in Chinese language. I asked them not to randomly label a religion and pointed out that they Tibetans also have religious beliefs. I said, “All religions, including the five major ones in China, teach people not to lie and to be honest, and these teachings are in agreement with the ethnic and religious policies of the Party and the country. How can you label Christianity as an illegal religion, or even a cult, that disrupts ethnic unity and social stability?” I also said repeatedly, “Tibet is a part of China. You must follow legal proceedings and regulations when you handle cases. You are not allowed to use torture to make me talk. I’ll tell you what I know. But if I don’t know, I won’t fabricate things to give false testimonies because it’s against my principles of Christian living.”
Then I saw them eat takeout food, and when they finished, they took turns interrogating me. At that moment, I really felt Lhasa, Tibet was a weird place. It turned pitch dark outside. The officers asked me to sign the record of interrogation. I refused when I saw in the record many things they did not ask me and discuss with me. They threatened me to sign it, but I insisted that I would not because many things in the record were not out of my mouth or consistent with facts. So the officers started a discussion among themselves in Tibetan language of which I couldn’t comprehend a word. Except when they interrogated me, all their conversations with one another was in Tibetan. Then they took me out of the NSPA office to the courtyard of the Police Crime Detachment. I asked to call my family to inform them about my situation. They agreed initially, but then snatched back the phone and commanded me to take off my belt and glasses. They said I would have to spend the night at the custody room. I was cold, hungry and exhausted. I told them I needed my family to send me some clothes. I just came back from another city, and was taken away from home as soon as I walked into my house, and then I was interrogated for a long time by a few officers taking turns. By now I could barely stand on my feet. So I walked into the courtyard of the Police Crime Detachment to demand the most basic legal rights of a Chinese citizen. I asked for food and more clothes because I was really hungry and cold. Fast enough, about seven or eight police officers came over. They were all Tibetans who spoke in Tibetan language of which I didn’t understand a word. But they all started insulting Christianity and Christians in unison, saying things like “illegal”, “cult”, and “scums like dogs”, etc. I protested vigorously and demanded them to respect people of different ethnicity and religious faith. I stated that in Lhasa, Tibet, Tibetan Buddhism is not the only religion, that Catholicism, Islam, and Christianity also exist in this land, and that Tibet is made up of various ethnic groups, including Moinba, Lhoba, Han Chinese, Mongolians, Naxi, Bai and Muslims who believe in Islam. So I demanded the presence of a Han Chinese officer because these Tibetan officers sounded extremely biased ethnically; if not, I would go back to the custody room. Eventually a sergeant from Lhasa Police Station showed up. I remember his badge number is 100903. With his coordination, those NSPA officers gradually left, and their ridicule of me, their insulting, discriminatory, and slanderous remarks about Christian faith also disappeared in the air. They publically demanded me to show proof of their abusive remarks, but I couldn’t have done it without a recorder. As a poor and feeble intellectual, my chances of suing them also dissipated. But I still had to meet my immediate needs: I was cold and hungry. I explained my situation to the sergeant and reiterated my position that I needed a Han Chinese officer to handle my case because I could keenly sense the extreme level of discrimination Tibetan officers held against other ethnicities and religions, especially the Christian faith I believe in. They severely violated our country’s laws and regulations regarding ethnic and religious affairs. The few officers who handled my case seemed to have totally ignored the basic rights of citizens prescribed in the Constitution, not to mention following the rules regarding management of ethnic and religious affairs, or the charters of Chinese Christian Commission(CCC) and Three-self Patriotic Movement Committee (TPMC) when handling affairs of different religions in minority ethnic regions. The sergeant made arrangements to continue our discussion in the custody room. At midnight I was given a bowel of instant noodles to eat. After that, I obeyed the sergeant’s instructions to spend the night at the custody room.
In the second half of that night – the night I spent at the custody room, I was cuddling my comforter, cold and hungry, when a topless man burst into my room, screaming, yelling at me, and threatened to do this and that to me. He looked really drunk. I told him I was too cold and hungry to fall asleep. He left with the persuasion of another officer. I remember I asked him if he was a police officer. It was very strange that he said he was a security guard, not an officer. The second night I was still under custody of Police Crime Detachment and slept in a different room. But on the early morning of the third day, the drunk guard burst into my room again, screaming and yelling. After that, he requested everyone in our cell to take our comforters out and put them under the Sun for air dry. I was still cold and hungry and my clothes had not been delivered to me. (Actually, on October 6, the following day after my detention, my wife already brought my clothes and comforter to NSPA who agreed to deliver those items to me right away.) Since I wasn’t given enough food to eat, I was in a semi-fasting state.
I was taken away from my home on October 5, and spent the night at the custody room of Police Crime Detachment. By the noon time of October 6, two Han Chinese officers took me to NSPA for interrogation. I found their practices very consistent with the regulations of the Ministry of Public Security regarding civilized law enforcement. They were friendly in their attitude and polite in their speech. And they seemed to have quite some knowledge about Christianity. After I signed the record of interrogation, they treated me to a meal. Then they handed me over to the few officers who initially interrogated me when I was seized. These officers took me back to the custody room of Police Crime Detachment. Before 48 hours, I was taken back to the NSPA office and there I was shown a detention warrant which read “alleged cult” in big font along with the signature of the Chief of Lhasa Police Bureau. Though I didn’t agree with their determination of Christianity as an “alleged cult”, there was no way I could change that. Through my interactions with police officers in two days, I learned that my case was handled by the Anti-cult Office. I also realized that when we initially submitted applications to relevant agencies of Lhasa city for the registration of Christian church, the applications were reportedly handed over to the Anti-cult Office by the Public Security Bureau. I refused to sign the detention warrant because I thought the ruling of “alleged cult” did not have legal basis. I also wrote down my reasons for not signing it, i.e. I don’t agree with labeling Christianity as a cult. Anyhow, on the afternoon of October 7, I was taken to the Detention House and put under criminal detention. Even on my way to the Detention House, a police officer wouldn’t stop verbally insulting Christianity. He made untruthful remarks about our God Jehovah and said that Jesus Christ that Christians believe in was a ghost, not a human. I was speechless. I could do nothing but put up with it. I spent that night at Row 2, Unit 4, of the Detention House with many prisoners on criminal charges. They wondered why a Christian was put under criminal detention among a group of prisoners who had been sentenced. I felt even more confused than them. How did I end up being in a cell room with inmates who had been sentenced to a few or over ten years’ of imprisonment? It seemed like I had a serious charge against me, very likely a political criminal charge. Or was this because I was charged with engagement in “alleged cult”, as those police officers had told me? Having no clue about what was going to happen, I couldn’t sleep at all that night. All the other inmates tried to talk me into accepting my situation and taking care of myself. “Thinking too much is not going to help. Since you’re already here, you might as well eat and sleep well,” they said. They seemed to be more relaxed and positive than me.
On the evening of October 8, I was interrogated. After I was detained for engagement in “alleged cult”, I received another notice saying that I would be subject to “extended detention of 30 days” for “committing crimes from one place to another.” And the “extended detention” would start from October 10 until November 10. I refused to sign the notice and I wondered where this charge of “committing crimes from one place to another” came from. Does it mean that if a Chinese Christian practiced his/her religious faith in different places, it would be considered “committing crimes from one place to another”? I wrote down my reasons for not signing it that I had never committed any crime, let alone commit crimes from one place to another, and that nothing I did went against rules governing Christian practices in China. The police office was very mad as he read my reasons for not signing the notice. I head him read out the reason I wrote on the detention warrant as to why I couldn’t sign it, which is “I don’t agree with the determination of Christianity being an alleged cult organization”. Finally the officer left with little patience. On the third day, this officer again came to the Detention House, interrogated me and made a record of interrogation. But he was appointed to this post to do this work temporarily. He asked me a few questions and I gave my answers truthfully, letting my “yes” be “yes”, and “no” be “no”. I asked him about the nature of my case and how the determination changed from “alleged cult” to “committing crimes from one place to another.” He wouldn’t explain and kept saying that he had not handled my case from the beginning and only joined halfway, so he didn’t know much about it. I could do nothing but let him go at them. After I signed the record of interrogation, I was left at the Detention House. I just couldn’t stop wondering why what were considered as common practices of Christian living in inland China became “illegal” in Lhasa, Tibet, and were criminalized as “alleged cult” and “committing crimes from one place to another?”
After that, I requested to make an appointment to meet with the Prosecutor or make an appeal, according to the rights inmates are entitled to that police officers repeatedly showed me on papers, but my requests were always declined. I was told that my case hadn’t been tried, so I could not meet with the Prosecutor or make an appeal. I was asked to obey all the rules and regulations of the Detention House and wait until a verdict was reached.
As early as October 7, before I was taken to the Detention House, my wife had already delivered clean clothes, beddings and other necessities of life to the office of NSPA. She also sent me a list of the items delivered. But before I left the office, I had only received one coat, one piece of underwear and one pair of socks. The rest of the items were never given to me despite that I constantly asked for them. Based on my real needs, I asked to write my wife a letter to tell her about some things that I wasn’t able to do due to my sudden arrest and to tell her to send directly to Row 2, Unit 4 of the Detention House some necessities of like such as clothes and beddings. The police officer approved my request and promised to transfer my letter to the agency handling my case. I also asked to purchase some books on ethnic and religious polices and laws for self-study. The officer said he could loan me a copy of Commentaries on Criminal Laws to read, but for now he wouldn’t be able to help me purchase books. On October 20, I had my third interrogation at the Detention House, but the officers of NSPA said they knew nothing about my letter. And of course I didn’t receive any items sent by my wife until almost the end of October when I finally received my clothes. But this was not the batch of clothes my wife delivered to the NSPA a while ago. It was the second batch she delivered directly to the Detention House. During this interrogation, they again asked about people and events I had no knowledge of. I told them repeatedly that I could not lie about things I didn’t know. The officer who had always been insulting and discriminatory against Christianity again launched an outburst of curses and insults towards Christianity and Christians. He forced me to answer his questions. One of his colleagues punched my face and head with his hands and forbad me to say anything. I repeatedly called them people of extremely narrow-minded ethnocentrism. Then they went out for a short while and only one returned. He made the record of interrogation. I signed it and went back to my cell. During this process, there was a Han Chinese officer who asked me where I originally came from and if my household registration was in Lhasa. He seemed to know Christianity quite well. He asked me those questions when I was interrogated and beat up, then he went out after I answered. He seemed to be discussing issues regarding Christian faith with several other people outside the interrogation room.
But my case just continued to remain undecided, and in the meantime, I heard that a lot of Christian believer had been arrested in Lhasa around National Day holiday. Why? I could not figure out and nobody would give me a clear answer. In addition, police officers kept changing the questions they asked me during interrogations. They asked me about people I had no knowledge of, such as Liu Xiangmei, Chen Jing, and people from my hometown Henan Province, etc. Neither did I know anything about a person named Dong Chunhua who allegedly called me. There was a long list of names and events they interrogated me about. I really did not know anything about them. How could I have fabricated facts?
On the evening of October 31, I was interrogated again at the Detention House by two officers who handled my case from the very beginning. They said all the other detainees had been released and had admitted to their wrong doings. They asked me to think carefully and to help government agencies clear up the case. This time they did not make a record of interrogation. I wondered why they suddenly changed their procedure. In the afternoon of November 1, these two officers interrogated me again and required me to write a letter of guarantee in which, first of all, I need to confess that I made mistakes and broke the law due to ignorance of the ethnic and religious situation in Lhasa Tibet; and secondly I need to promise that I will leave Lhasa and return to my hometown as soon as possible upon my release. In order to reunite with my family, I wrote a letter as they requested and therefore in the afternoon of November 1, I was released before my detention period was due. But all the personal items confiscated from my house (two laptop computers, my books for self-study, etc.) and the items a Christian friend kept in our house (clothes, beddings, and books, etc.) had been defined as crime tools and reportedly destroyed.
From the beginning to the end of the whole experience, no police officer ever showed me a search warrant when my belongings were confiscated from my house. I was never shown a list of confiscated items and the confiscation happened when we were not at home. All confiscated items were eventually defined as means of crimes and destroyed. We were not allowed to pursue this issue. Is this a legal practice? When I left the Detention House, the police there told me there would be a release letter, but why so far I still haven’t seen it? I was demanded to leave Lhasa within one week, but how was I supposed to handle my family, furniture, and my business dealings of local and special products properly within such a short period of time? Even if it was considered illegal for me to store in my house some Bibles in Tibetan language and Christian books, for what reason were our computers as well as the clothes, beddings and books someone else temporarily kept in my house confiscated and destroyed and we were not even allowed to ask about them?
II. My name is Song Xinkuan. I am originally from Zhumadian, Henan Province. I was born in 1973. I received my education from elementary school through college in village, town, county and city of Henan Province. I worked for the Corporation of State-owned Enterprises and ran a Newspaper of Enterprises. I participated in launching “Jing-jiu Evening Paper” before the operation of Jing-jiu railroad. I also did journalism and editorial work at the Department of Books and Picture Albums for Henan Branch of Xinhua News Agency. In 1998, I received Christianity as my personal religious belief. After that, I studied the Bible and audited classes at churches and seminaries attached and subordinate to CCC and TSPMC (China Christian Council and Three-self Patriotic Movement Committee) with locations in Zhengzhou of Henan Province, Wuhan of Hubei Province, Shijiazhuang of Hebei Province, Beijing the capital city, and Kunming of Yunnan Province. All these institutions taught me to love our country, love church, obey laws, and be a good Chinese citizen and Christian believer. I have never violated what I was taught and what I believe, never broken laws and committed crimes, not to mention having a criminal record of “committing crimes from one place to another.”
In December, 2008, my family and I came to Lhasa to research the market of local and special products and got acquainted with some Christians who lived here. In October, 2009 when we made a second visit, I sought employment from Shigatse Newspaper. I also went to Nyingchi district to research the market of local and special products. I also applied for a job with the Journal of Tibet Aid Society of the Autonomous Region Development and Reform Commission. Eventually I worked for the Office of Highlighted News of Tibet Business Newspaper for a period of time and then worked for Shentong UPS Company for some time. Although we did our business of local and special products through a Christian network, we never broke a law or committed a crime in Tibet during these two to three years, let alone get involved in “cult organizations”. How did the authorities come up with the determination that our practices of Christian faith were “alleged cult”?
Around Christmas time of the year 2009, I had discussions with a few Christians from Leqing, Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, about applying for a Christian activity venue in Lhasa, Tibet. I also had interactions with Christians in Lhasa, Tibet, who came from different provinces of China. We all hoped that under the leadership of relevant government agencies, the practices of Christian faith would be put under government’s legal management through an organization like the Islam Council and Buddhist Council. I hoped that eventually we Christians would have a public venue for religious activities. I believe this is the common wish of all Christians in Lhasa, Tibet who have always been willing to submit to government’s legal leadership and management. We applied for this again and again over many years, but why our legal efforts ended up making Christian faith become illegal in Lhasa, Tibet? Or even an “alleged cult”? I did participate in drafting the application materials regarding Christianity in Lhasa, Tibet, and I also drafted Articles of Tibet Lhasa Christian Council or Christian Association in accordance with the Articles of China Christian Council and Three-self Patriotic Movement Committee, as well as some articles and plans about managing Christian groups. We did not submit some of these articles and management plans to authorities because we never heard back about the application materials we had already submitted. How could these documents have been used as proof to determine our practices of Christian faith to be “illegal”, “alleged cult”, and “committing crimes from one place to another”?
It was said that over ten Christians were arrested and detained around National Day holiday, and for many of them, their personal belongings were inspected and confiscated. At the branch office of NSPA, before I was taken to the Detention House, a police officer showed me a movie disc and asked me, “Is this yours? How can this not be yours? I took it from your house.” I asked to take a close look at it, only to find that the items in a box that he claimed were confiscated from my house were not mine at all. There were items I had never seen in my life before. Meanwhile, another officer was browsing on the computer my wife and I had used, and strange enough, he asked me for password to access the content. I told him I did not have s password because there were no secrets we tried to hide. When I left the Detention House, the police officer who handled our case told me that others (arrested Christians) had been released. I wondered why the confiscated items were not returned to us since the owners of those items had been released. Is it not clearly written in the laws and regulations of our country that the personal properties of Chinese citizens are protected from any harm and therefore any violation of it is a criminal offense?
III. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China stipulates that citizens of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. Chinese citizen have the right to believe in any religion or any sect of a religion, and the right to not believe in any religion or any sect. The ethnic and religious policies and regulations of China also stipulate that as a Socialist country under the leadership of the Party, China is a large family of multi-ethnic groups that strive for common prosperity. All ethnic groups are like family members living under one roof. Therefore, our Party and our country do not support Han Chauvinism and strongly oppose extreme local ethnocentrism. In terms of ethnic and religious affairs, our Party and country do not take administrative measures to support or suppress any religion or sect.
The Regulations on Ethnic and Religious Affairs issued by the State Council put the five major religions of China on an equal footing. The Article of of China Christian Council and Three-self Patriotic Movement Committee, as well as the White Paper on Religion issued by the State Council all stipulate with clarity that Christianity in China is a patriotic and law-abiding organization and it is legal for Christians to worship God and practice their faith at their homes with family, relatives, friends and neighbors. This kind of home-based religious activity does not need to be registered or documented. Meanwhile, all five major religions have the legal right to publish and distribute religious materials for internal use. They can print and publish as long as they obtain internal permission within the religion. This is also clearly prescribed in the Regulations on Ethnic and Religious Affairs issued by the State Council as well as in the Articles of CCC and TSPMC.
Since ancient times, Tibet has always been inhabited by scattered people who form small communities in different areas. Various ethnic groups such as Moinba, Lhoba, Tibetans, Han, Mongolian, Pumi, Nakhi, Qiang, Tu, Bai and Lisu have all made great contributions to the economic and social development of Tibet and to the communications across ethnicities, religions and cultures. The legends about Shangri-La, also called Shambhala, indicate that all the ethnic groups of Tibet, all people in China, and even people in other nations and cultures all hope for a harmonious world where various ethnic groups and religions mingle together. In fact, that is the reality within Tibet as well as in its neighboring areas. Bon, the indigenous belief of Tibetans, was originated in an ancient Tibetan Kingdom. Then came two historical periods when Buddhism was brought into Tibet and mingled with Bon. As a result, five major sects of Tibetan Buddhism were formed. Through religious and cultural interactions, ethnic groups like Pumi, Nakhi, Bai, Tu, Qiang, and especially Mongolians, Manchus as well as Moinba and Lhoba have all received great influence from Tibetan Buddhism. So have Han Chinese. I have many friends who are Han but converted to Tibetan Buddhism. Even Muslims of different ethnic groups living in Tibet were affected by Tibetan Buddhism and the term “Tibetan Muslim” was coined to refer to them. Of course there were also Tibetan Buddhists who converted to Islam.
The early development of China Tibetology must be attributed to the intentional and unintentional work of early Christian (Christian and Catholic) missionaries. They helped introduce to people in the west a special ethnic group in the ancient east. It has been commonly recognized by scholars today that early missionaries made great contributions to the mutual communications between east and west regarding the development of Tibetology. In the middle of the 16th century, after the Reformation in east and west Europe, Catholicism was carried across the border of India into Leh, Ladakh, Kashmir and Nepal etc., and then spread to Guge Dynasty, Shigatse region, and eventually to the Holy City Lhasa. Chamdo of Tibet is similar to Anduo Tibetan District in Gannan, Qinghai Province, in its religious diversity. Even today in that area, Christianity, Catholicism, Islam and Tibetan Buddhism co-exist and develop in harmony. Therefore this area is also called the Shangri-La of China.
Tibet Autonomous Region has a great variety of intermingled ethnic groups, and Lhasa in particular has a concentrated Muslim population. Islam Council governs their religious life and a few mosques of various sizes where Muslims can practice their faith. The Catholics have a tall grand church building in Nakhi Town, Yanjing, Chamdo. Bon and the five sects of Tibetan Buddhism also have their own venues for religious activities. Only Christianity is an exception. Ever since China’s “Reform and Open-up” since the 1980s until today, no less than hundreds and thousands of Christian believers in Tibet Autonomous Region could only spontaneously form small groups and meet at private homes to worship. To this day, they still don’t have a public venue for religious activities. Therefore, in the past four years, initiated and led by Christians from Leqing, Wenzhou, Zhejiang Providence, we Christians continued to submit applications to the government for Christian venues. And for many decades, Christianity has always been peaceful and non-confrontational in Lhasa, Tibet. We do hope that our religious life would be put under government’s legal management, standardized management, and even accountability management. This is our original intent and the reason why over all these years we have been constantly applying for public venues for Christian activities.
However, before and after the Party’s 90th Anniversary Celebration, the 60th Anniversary of Tibet Autonomous Region, and the National Day holiday, well over 10 Christians were suddenly seized, detained and had their personal items confiscated. After being detained for nearly a month, they were released one after another and were demanded to return to their hometowns. We really want to ask, “What are the reasons behind this?” We wanted our religious practices to be legalized, regulated and managed by the government and we submitted applications for registration proactively and continuously. If we really were an “illegal”, “alleged cult” that “committed crimes from one place to another”, why were we released so easily? Could it be possible that some people with the mentality of extreme provincial ethnocentrism, out of selfish intents, took this opportunity to suppress, alienate and discriminate against Christians who are ethnically and religiously different from them? We recognize that Christianity in Lhasa, Tibet may to some extent develop in a disorganized and unregulated manner, and it is possible that Christians are not familiar with the ethnic and religious policies and regulations of Lhasa, Tibet. But isn’t it exactly for this reason that for many years we have continuously applied to the government for registration because we want organized and harmonious development under the government’s legal supervision and management? How did Christianity suddenly become an illegal religion that disrupted ethnic unity and social stability, or even an “alleged cult”? Does that mean it’s illegal now for Christians to run businesses, work, start businesses and get involved in charity work in Tibet Autonomous Region? Do Chinese citizens, no matter which of the five major religions they believe in, have the right to run businesses, work, start businesses and get involved in charity work in different places of the country? Have our Christian practices which are considered normal and legal in inland China all become targets of criminalization and as a result Christians must be deported to their hometowns? We don’t understand this and even we think really hard, we still can’t understand. If we truly committed an offense and we promised not to commit it again, we should have been allowed to stay in Lhasa or other places of Tibet to continue our business or work. Isn’t this a basic right we as citizens are entitled to? We hope our religious belief will be respected, not randomly insulted and discriminated against. We don’t want to be determined as illegal without any legal basis and as a result, our personal freedom and properties are not protected by the law.
It is my hope that through this personal appeal, I would be able to learn more and gain a better understanding of the ethnic and religious policies of Lhasa, Tibet, in particular the policies regarding people of different ethnicities and religious faiths, especially Christians. We need to know when the government will apply legal and standardized management to Christianity and implement it. In the meantime, we all hope that our practices of Christian faith will be reasonably respected by the authorities who tend to seize and detain Christians, confiscate their belongings and deport them to their hometowns whenever they feel suspicious, regardless of the Constitution, laws, regulations, and ethnic and religious policies. We believe that law enforcement people must determine cases by legal criteria. We Christians should not be randomly found guilty if we are not according to the law because we are all equal in front of the law and no one should rise above or trample the holy dignity of the law.
We hope the government will consider managing Christianity the same way as it manages Islam or Yanjing Catholic Church. We Christians could have a public venue for activities which would make it easier for the government to manage directly or indirectly, to standardize and regulate the management, and to hold it accountable. We hope even more that the government would approve the establishment of a Christian faith management organization like the Islam Council or the Buddhism Council. This organization could be under the supervision and management of the government and adopt the model of integrating civilian management and democratic management. It could be named Christian Council or Christian Democratic Management Association functioning as a medium agency between the government and grassroots Christians. Over many years, we have been applying to the government for establishing such an organization which is based on principles of equality and balance, functions in accordance with the Constitution, laws and regulations and management policies for ethnic and religious affairs, and brings benefits to ethnic unity and social stability. It would help address the government’s concerns about Christianity being disruptive of ethnic unity and social stability. I believe that the approval of a public venue for Christians to gather at and the establishment of Christian Council or Christian Democratic Management Association would be more beneficial in improving the government’s image, safeguarding stability, combating separatism, and totally preventing tendencies and inclinations of people who intend to cause disruptions.
My overall suggestions, which I believe also reflect the general desire and wish of all Christians in Lhasa, Tibet, are that the government will focus on the efforts of the few Christians from Leqing, Wenzhou, Zhejiang Providence who have been continuously submitting applications on behalf of Christians, work and coordinate along the line they initiated, and approve the establishment of a public venue for Christian activities in Lhasa, Tibet. Operation and administrative expenses can be financed by funds raised by Christians. On the basis of that, it is hoped that the government at the same time will establish a Tibet Lhasa Christian Council involving the few Christians from Zhejiang Province. This council could be attached to Lhasa Municipal Religious Bureau as a subordinate agency, or it could operate in another location like the Islam Council and mosque. Administratively it could be supervised and managed by agencies like the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau or the Public Security Bureau. There would be an executive chairman in charge of the internal affairs of the council and be held accountable. As for management rules, Christians could compose the Articles of Tibet Lhasa Christian Council and articles for managing the venue for Christian activities in Lhasa, Tibet (Christian church), based on the Articles of China Christian Council and Three-self Patriotic Movement Committee, Regulations on Ethnic and Religious Affairs by the State Council and Tibet Autonomous Region Regulations on Ethnic and Religious Affairs. All these documents would be submitted to relevant government agencies for review, approval and documentation.
The Chairman of Tibet Lhasa Christian Association or Christian Democratic Management Committee would be in charge of the overall coordination of the religious practices of Christians in Lhasa, Tibet. The Executive Deputy Chairman and Deputy Chairman would assist the Chairman in his/her work and coordinate the religious practices of grassroots Christians in neighboring areas, and the details and specific levels of management, which would be under the overall supervision of the government. The government would supervise and standardize its management, hold it accountable and regulate it. So both inside and outside, the management of Christian affairs would be based on the law and implemented by the law, just like in other inland providences of China.
The Articles of Tibet Lhasa Christian Association or Christian Democratic Management Committee had been drafted when I participated in the writing of Christian application materials in the year 2009. Meetings could be held to discuss them. If passed, they could be submitted to relevant government agencies for review and documentation.
To sum up, I hope the government will return the personal belongings confiscated from the over 10 Christians who were seized and detained around the National Day holiday of year 2011 since they had been released. I also hope that the government will approve the establishment of some public venues in Lhasa, Tibet, for Christians to practice their faith, and approve the establishment of Tibet Lhasa Christian Association or Democratic Management Committee. These measures will increase the mutual trust between the government and Christians, and promote the management of religious activities of Christians in Lhasa, Tibet, on legal basis. I believe these are remarkable deeds that will bring exceeding benefits to the country, the people, the legal system and the government. May the grace and blessings of God the Creator be on Lhasa, Tibet. May the sacrificial love Christ demonstrated on the cross inspire every Christian believer in Lhasa, Tibet.
A Chinese citizen & Christian believer
Source: China Aid, International Christian Concern