Ian Johnson

The crackdown on two of five churches has not so much to do with religion, but is part of the government to control civil society, says journalist Ian Johnson, author of The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao, including NGO’s and others outside government control, at CNN.


Analysts and civil rights advocates say Beijing is intensifying its campaign against worshipers seen as an ideological threat to the party’s monopoly on power.

“We are now entering a new era of repression toward two of China’s five religions, which is different than what we’ve seen over the past 40 years,” said Ian Johnson, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author of “The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao.”…

Experts say restrictions on worship help those in power mold religious institutions to their liking, or co-opt them altogether.

Christianity and Islam, Johnson said, are seen as particularly threatening because the party views them as having “strong foreign ties.” “(That’s) even though both religions have long roots in China and are very much localized,” he added…

While other communist regimes have also been hostile to religion, Johnson said the crackdown on Christianity and Islam was less about the faiths’ practices and beliefs and more about the China’s ability to control them.

“Under President Xi, the government has further tightened control over Christianity in its broad efforts to ‘Sinicize’ religion or ‘adopt Chinese characteristics’ — in other words, to ensure that religious groups support the government and the Communist Party,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement calling for the release of Wang Yi, the Chengdu pastor, and his fellow believers…

It remains unclear how the Vatican deal will affect Protestant churches like Early Rain, but critics believe it comes from the same playbook as the arrests in Chengdu — it’s all about control.

“This goes back to a broader effort by the government to crack down on anything that can be construed as civil society — in other words, groups like religious organizations, or NGOs, that are outside government control,” Johnson said.

More at CNN.

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