Today, after many years of slowly opening to the world, China is once again closing up. After only six years in power, President Xi Jinping is widely considered to be the most powerful Chinese leader since Chairman Mao who died over 40 years ago. Jinping has cemented his rule so completely that, unlike some of his predecessors, he may be able to hold on to power indefinitely.
As a result, arrests and crackdowns on Christians and other religious minorities who refuse to submit their faith to every dictate of Xi Jinping or the Communist Party are taking place at levels that may be higher than anything seen since the days of Chairman Mao.
Yet the China of today, and the world today, is vastly changed from 40 years ago. While China is making use of the latest in surveillance technology to strengthen its repression of fundamental human rights, technology has also made the world more aware than ever of what’s taking place in the world’s most populous country. Much of the world has watched as millions of protestors in Hong Kong have resisted encroaching Communist Party rule. Unlike the China of 1960, or even of 1989, authorities have held back from sending in tanks and soldiers for fear of the tremendous international backlash that would follow an extreme crackdown like those of the past.
An uphill battle
Here in Washington D.C., Open Doors USA is utilizing its many years of experience with the persecuted in China to make sure policies that hold China accountable for abuses against religious minorities are being brought to the table. We’ve met with the Vice President and others to tell the story of the persecuted, and we’re working in coalitions that help to amplify our efforts. Even more broadly, Open Doors is advocating with governments outside of the U.S., including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and at multilateral institutions like the United Nations and European Union.
We face an uphill battle. China has become a major international power, and countries that choose to confront China on religious freedom or other issues sometimes pay a price. Yet we know that advocacy works. If not for the pressures of the international community and the United States’ stalwart (although sometimes imperfect) stand against tyrannical rule and human rights abuses, China would be far worse off. Today, as President Xi Jinping tries to take China back to the dark ages of repression, we have a responsibility to stand strong. It may take years, or even decades, but the light of the gospel cannot be extinguished, and we must continue to do our part to hold the darkness at bay.
After all, thanks to the testimonies of Mr. Lu and the many others like him, we know that hope always remains—even in the darkest of places.
*Name changed for security
Isaac Six serves as director of advocacy for Open Doors USA and is based in Washington, D.C. He has worked on religious freedom issues and Christian persecution in Washington for over eight years, including inside and outside of government; and has traveled extensively to meet with victims of religious freedom violations around the globe.