THE WASHINGTON POST: China deepens assault on faith

By Philip P. Pan

BEIJING, Feb. 12

A religious rights group in the United States has published a set of internal Chinese government documents describing in remarkable detail the suppression of unauthorized religious groups, including efforts to crush underground Catholic churches, use of secret agents to infiltrate illegal Protestant congregations and orders for “forceful measures” against the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

The eight documents, which include classified speeches and memos by security officials, were smuggled out of the country by Chinese Christians working with sympathetic local police officers and a former Chinese intelligence official, according to the group that released them, the Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China, which is based in New York.


The documents confirm the ruling Communist Party’s determination to expand its crackdown on Falun Gong into a nationwide campaign against a wide range of unauthorized religious activity, and they offer a rare glimpse into the workings of the vast, secretive security apparatus assigned to carry out the assault.

Robin Munro, a China specialist at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, examined the documents and said that they appeared to be authentic and that they could be among the most significant internal documents on religious persecution in China seen in the West.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in such quantity,” he said. “These documents are from all around the country, all consistent, all quite draconian, and all expressing implacable hostility toward these groups and determination to eradicate them.”[…]

[..]The report’s release comes slightly more than a week before President Bush is scheduled to make his first state visit to Beijing. The Chinese government may be considering concessions on human rights to ensure the visit goes smoothly. A Hong Kong businessman imprisoned for smuggling bibles into the country was released last weekend, for example, after Bush expressed concern about his case.

“We want to use this momentum to push further for religious freedom for the Chinese people,” said Bob Fu, the committee’s executive director and a former underground pastor in Beijing. He said the documents prove that the Chinese government is engaging in “dangerous double talk” by hinting at softer policies while issuing secret orders to crush illegal religious groups.


Li Shixiong, president of the committee, said half the documents were passed to him by Chinese Christians who obtained them from sympathetic provincial police officials. He said he received the others from a former Ministry of State Security official, who also used Christians to carry them out of the country and who has since gone into hiding.

“Hostile organizations both in our country and abroad have shifted their focus to the inside of our country and have hastened their infiltration through various methods, such as via foundations or academic delegations, and all kinds of media,” warned Sun Jianxin, vice director of public security in Anhui province, in the longest of the documents. “Hostile Western powers headed by the U.S. have hastened to carry on their strategies of Westernizing, splitting and weakening our country.”

He warned that the Vatican “is still waiting for any opportunity to intervene in the internal affairs of Catholic churches in our country,” then said that even as Beijing and the Vatican were discussing diplomatic relations, his security forces “began to search, educate, convert, reconnoiter and control some key members of the underground Catholics.”

He also urged an intense, methodical crackdown on members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. “Find out the details about them and tighten control on them. Make sure to keep them to their local areas and prevent them from connecting and gathering, or going to Beijing to stir up trouble. Put them in classes by force and use forceful measures if necessary.”

The government has declared Falun Gong a [slanderous term used by Chinese government]. Its adherents, who practice a mix of spiritual exercises, say that more than 1,600 fellow believers have died as the result of police abuse in a three-year-old suppression campaign.[…]

Several documents describe efforts to infiltrate religious groups using secret agents, as well as members who are “forced upon secret arrest to work for us.” One refers to an order to establish “mobile reconnaissance teams” throughout the country that can conduct electronic surveillance of suspects.

“Secret forces are the heart and soul in covert struggles and the crucial magic weapon in our battle against and victory over the enemy,” it says, urging security agents to focus on Falun Gong members, underground Catholics, private businessmen with complicated political backgrounds, as well as university professors and students.

Another document suggests that China’s most senior leaders are involved in plotting strategy against unauthorized religious groups, some of which have hundreds of thousands of members. […]

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