Harsh sentence for Chinese Protestant pastor "guilty" of printing bibles
His sentence, of two years imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 euros, was handed down on the same day as the head of the world's Anglicans discussed "closer collaboration for theological formation of the clergy" with Chinese leaders. The government says it is open to catechism classes for children.
Beijing (AsiaNews) The Chinese justice system has sentenced a pastor from the unofficial Protestant church, Wang Zaiqing, to two years imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 yuan (around 10,000 euros), for "illegally producing Bibles and Christian materials".
The verdict was announced on 9 October, the same day that the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, met Chinese authorities to discuss the need for better theological training for pastors at work in the country. This was revealed in a statement by Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
The Anglican leader, primate of around 77 million faithful scattered around the world, is his church's first foreign pastor to visit China in 10 years. During his two-week trip, which ended yesterday, Williams visited Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan, Xian and Beijing.
It was in the capital that he met Chinese government representatives, raising "half a dozen cases of religious persecution, including the arrest of Cai Zhuohu", a pastor sentenced to three years in jail for "illicit trading of bibles".
However, the prelate said he had noticed a "growing spirit of openness in China", underlining the possibility of co-operation with China's official churches in matters like children's health care, the training of clergymen and building libraries in seminaries. Williams said: "The government's changing attitude presents many opportunities for churches."
The answer of the Communist leadership came from Jia Qinglin, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, who indicated that "there are no problems, for example, with Sunday schools [children's catechism lessons] in churches." Chinese law currently bans all religious teaching to anyone under 18.
Jia also said: "Closer ties between the Anglican Church and Chinese churches could be seen as part of wider exchanges between Beijing and London." He added: "Our government is trying to build a harmonious society and religion could play a positive role in fostering social harmony."
The reaction to these words of a columnist of the South China Morning Post was: "In other words, religion is not being recognised for its intrinsic worth in meeting the spiritual needs of the people. It is a tool to be harnessed by the authorities to achieve social harmony."