Deepens Assault on Faith
Documents Confirm Resolve
to Expand Crackdown
By Philip P. Pan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
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 spiritual organizations,
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 who examined the documents, said they
appeared to be authentic and could be among the most significant
internal documents on religious persecution in China seen in
"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 party sees these groups as a mortal threat, and it's
really going into overdrive now."
The papers were published this week as part of a 141-page report
outlining the results of an unusually extensive study on Christians
in China. The committee said it identified more than 23,000
people arrested since 1983 for unauthorized religious activity
and collected statements from 5,000 victims of torture and persecution
in 22 provinces and 200 cities.
There was no immediate reaction from the Chinese government,
which was closed for the week-long Spring Festival holiday.
China allows religious activity, including Christianity, but
only within the framework of state-authorized churches. Catholics
attend Mass freely in the Beijing cathedral, for instance, but
the officially sanctioned church takes orders from the government,
not the Vatican. 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. The documents describe the government's
campaign against a wide range of churches, sects and cults flourishing
across China, and they focus particularly on those with ties
"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 out 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 "an evil cult."
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. Officials
have attributed most of the deaths to suicide or refusal to
accept medical care.
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 to 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 and 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.
Hu Jintao, designated as successor to President Jiang Zemin,
is quoted discussing a sect known as Eastern Lightning and instructing
police to "be watchful of its movement, and then deal with
it according to law in a timely manner."
The minister of public security, Jia Chunwang, added, "We
need to work more, talk less to smash the cult quietly."