By Emily Rauhala
GUIYANG, China — Pastor Su Tianfu slides into the back seat and tells the driver to hit it.
He looks over his shoulder. “Is there anybody following us?”
It is days before Christmas, but instead of working on his sermon, Su is giving his tail the slip.
The slight and soft-spoken Protestant preacher is no stranger to surveillance. Su has worked for years in China’s unregistered “house churches,” and he said he has been interrogated more times than he can count.
But even Su is surprised by what has happened in Guiyang this month: a crackdown that has led to the shuttering of the thriving Living Stone Church, the detention of a priest on charges of “possessing state secrets,” and the shadowing of dozens of churchgoers by police.
“The overall environment in the past few years has been harsh,” said Yang Fenggang, director of Purdue University’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society. “There’s a tightened control over civil society in general, including churches.”
The Communist Party has a complicated, often contradictory, view of faith: The constitution protects the right to religion, but the state is unwilling to relinquish control.
“The Chinese Communist Party is violently allergic to non-party organizing vehicles, whether they’re nonprofits, libraries or churches,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
That means that you can be a Christian or a Tibetan Buddhist or a Muslim, but on the government’s terms. Christians must limit themselves to “normal religious activity” at a state-backed church, where party dogma trumps religious doctrine and proselytizing is forbidden. Local officials decide what “normal” means — and, hence, what is legal.
Read more at The Washington Post