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3 Billion Blind Mice, See How They Run

We've had some millipedes invading our house lately. Speaking of pests, check out this story about what's going on in China. It's hard to imagine. From the current issue of The Week magazine:

Billions of mice are swarming across Hunan province, devouring rice paddies and clogging village paths. The mice were driven from their holes last month, when officials opened the sluice gates on Dongting Lake to relieve flooding from other waterways. The annual occurrence usually displaces thousands of mice, but this year, because of the major flooding, the swarm is many times larger. "They are like troops advancing," said farmer Zhang Luo. Villagers have killed an estimated 2 billion mice so far, beating them with shovels or using homemade poison. Tons of mouse corpses are now rotting in the fields and must be collected and buried. The poison has also killed hundreds of cats and dogs.

China Blue

chinablue.jpgEarlier this week I watched the documentary China Blue from PBS' Independent Lens series. From Wikipedia:

China Blue is a 2005 documentary film directed by Micha Peled. It follows the life of Jasmine, a young worker in a Chinese jeans factory, hence the title. The documentary discusses both alleged sweatshop conditions in factories in China and the growing importance of China as an exporting country on a global scale.

I thought it was really interesting. The poor living conditions, the ridiculously long working hours, the contrast betwen the workers and the boss, etc. It reminds me that the extremely cheap price we pay, for a pair of jeans for example, necessarily comes at the expense of someone making them for next to nothing. I give it 5 out of 5.

China is Overrun with Wangs

From the current issue of The Week magazine:

Beijing A shortage of names. China is overrun with Wangs and Lis-93 million and 92 million, respectively. Fully 85 percent of China's 1.3 billion people have one of just 100 traditional surnames. This week, the Ministry of Public Security declared the situation a security hazard, because it is too difficult to track down any particular Wang Tao, say, among China's nearly 100,000 Wang Taos. The ministry announced it therefore would let couples give children either parent's surname-or a combination of both. A Wang and a Li, for example, could name their child Wang, Li, Liwang, or Wangli. The child of a Zhou and a Zhu could be called Zhouzhu. Double-naming is already permitted in Hong Kong, where it has become trendy.

In China, Churches Challenge the Rules

From an article of the same title in The Washington Post:

A new breed of churches in this region of China has demonstrated a boldness and independence unmatched elsewhere in the country, despite strict government guidelines for places of worship. Here in Wenzhou and the surrounding province of Zhejiang, just south of Shanghai, a growing number of congregations that began life as house churches -- unauthorized places of worship set up in private, often dilapidated homes -- have recently registered with the government, while continuing to spurn the rules of the official Protestant church in China. Like so many institutions in China, these churches now hover in a sort of legal netherworld. The official church, known as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, was founded in the 1950s to free religious Chinese from foreign funds and influence. Its name is derived from the principles of self-governance, self-support and self-propagation of the Gospel... According to the rules of China's official church, midweek services are forbidden, as is proselytizing outside of church. But the rules are often bent, depending on the relationship between local officials and church leaders, and some independent-minded churches refuse to attend official meetings or pay official fees... Nothing illustrated the boldness of Zhejiang's Christians more clearly than the hasty building of an illegal house church this summer in a suburb of Hangzhou, the provincial capital. When local officials demolished the church, a massive riot ensued, with 3,000 protesters facing off against thousands of uniformed riot police, security guards and plainclothes police. It was the most dramatic example in a series of arrests, raids and demolitions of churches considered illegal by the authorities. Some observers said the riot was only the latest chapter in a long-running battle between authorities and the more outspoken of China's growing population of 45 million to 65 million Christians. Other activists said it represented a stepped-up persecution of unregistered congregations.

Update on Lucado and the Chinese President

I've been curious to find out what happened on Lucado, Atchley, et al.'s trip to China. Atchley reports on how it went in a video (if that link doesn't work, search for "Trip to China Report" from August 9, 2006, on this page for the RealVideo link) on the Richland Hills church of Christ web site. Here's a summary: The trip was the brainchild of John Bentley, a missionary in China who, along with his wife Lisa, founded Harmony Outreach, a ministry that operates a children's home for special-needs orphans in China and helps connect people and organizations to China (see the Harmony Outreach website and also a Tyndale House Publisher's bio about Lisa). John had the idea to arrange a delegation of Christian leaders from America including:

  • Rick Atchley (Richland Hills Church of Christ, Richland Hills, TX)
  • Bob Russell (Southeast Christian Seminary, Louisville)
  • Max Lucado (Oak Hills church, San Antonio, TX)
  • Gary Smith (Fielder Road Baptist Church, Arlington, TX)
  • Royce Money (President, Abilene Christian University)
  • Rick Gregory (Vice President and Dean, Dallas Baptist University)
  • John Bethany (representative from Focus on the Family)
  • David Llewellyn (Attorney)

to meet with government officials about the possibility of better relations in China with the Christian faith. In order to go, they had to have a sponsor. "Chinese Charity Association" (maybe he meant "China Aid Association"?) had agreed to be their sponsor but got cold feet a couple days before they were to leave. When the group left for China, no meetings had yet been arranged. Once they had arrived, several important meetings were planned. The group visited John and Lisa's "Harmony House" orphanage. Apparently, China's one child policy means that babies with problems are discarded/abandoned. They met with the Chinese association in charge of social work. They agreed that it would be OK to come and do good works (for example, for the poor) in Jesus' name. They met with the equivalent of the state dept. They talked to the equivalent of our secretary of state about dreams for a more cooperative relationship with Chinese government. He listened politely and said "let us continue to dialogue more." They had lunch at the embassy in Beijing with US ambassador. They met with the state department for religious affairs, with the person with the cabinet level position in the party (an atheist) who controls all religion in China. He gave them the standard spiel that there are 16 million Christians in China and that the constitution says China allows freedom religion. They also met with an underground church leader. Overall, the trip seems to have resulted in plans for more activities and engagement with China. In less positive news about China, from an article this week in the NY Times by Howard W. French titled "China Adds Restrictions in Effort to Shake the Faith of Independent Congregations":

Tuanqianbu, China...Despite the 100-degree heat, there was a crowd at the little Protestant church this Sunday... Two weeks earlier, as many as 500 police officers surrounded the congregants as they were closing in on their long-held dream of completing construction of a new church nearby. The 3,000 or so people were driven away from the site, and those who argued or resisted in any way were arrested and, according to their lawyer, beaten. Then the church, with all but the roof in place, was demolished. The campaign against this poor little church outside Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province in eastern China, is part of a national wave of repression against independent, or underground, churches that are not registered with the government and do not recognize the authority of state-appointed spiritual leaders. Since the law regulating religious affairs was introduced in March 2005, provincial and local governments have begun a series of crackdowns on underground churches across China. The vaguely worded new rules call for local governments to "standardize" the management of religion nationwide. The Chinese crackdown, which also affects other faiths, especially Buddhism in Tibet and Islam in the far western Xinjiang Province, comes at a time of booming growth in underground churches across the country. The right to practice any of five recognized faiths - Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam and Protestantism - is enshrined in the Chinese Constitution, and the authorities routinely insist that religious freedom exists in this country. Under Chinese law, however, all recognized faiths must be registered and approved by the government, and they are closely monitored and required to follow strict and frequently changing regulations... According to the China Aid Association, an American Christian advocacy group that monitors religious freedom in China, 1,958 pastors were arrested at churches like these in the last year alone. Although the crackdown is decentralized, with each province and locality carrying out the repression on its own, the pattern is as unmistakable as the constant stream of incidents. In one recent case, in Tongwei, a village in eastern Anhui Province in late July, 90 children were reportedly detained with 40 adults after the police raided a Protestant Sunday school, calling the church teachings "illegal evangelism." Around the same time, in Hebei Province in the north, as many as 90 protesters were arrested after demanding the release of two clergymen from the underground Roman Catholic church, who had been detained without explanation.

Sounds like "complete freedom of religion" to me!


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