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.
Earlier 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.
From the current issue of The Week magazine:
A shortage of names.
China is overrun with Wangs and Lisâ€”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 surnameâ€”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.
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.
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 â€” Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam and Protestantism â€” 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!
In response to a comment about global warming, I looked up the data for CO2 emissions from the US and China over the last 25 years and made the plots below. The data are from the Energy Information Administration's "Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government" on the web here. The data represent emissions of CO2 from the consumption and flaring of fossil fuels.
The first plot shows that since 1980, the U.S. has released 2 times as much carbon dioxide as China has.
The second shows that the contrast is even greater per capita (per person): each year since 1980 the U.S. has released between 4 and 10 times as much CO2 per person as China.
The third plot shows that there is reason to be cocerned about China. Though in recent years the U.S. has continued to emit more CO2 than China, China's emissions are accelerating drastically and will eclipse ours.
According to various blogs (for example this one and this one), Max Lucado, Rick Atchley, and various others met with Chinese officials in Washington, D.C., in mid-July and were hoping (scheduled?) to meet with the president of China in Beijing this past Friday. The subject of these conversations was to be religious freedom in China.
Via the Kyivmission blog: here's an interesting article from The Washington Post about a case of fact-check neglect. It had been widely reported in may different sources that 600,000, 350,000 and 70,000 were the numbers of new engineers produced in 2004 in China, India, and the US, respectively...evidence that the US is falling behind in the technology race. It turns out that the realistic numbers are more like 352,000, 112,000, and 137,000. That means, per million residents, the rate of engineer production is higher in the US.
From an article by Peter S. Goodman in the Washington Post:
Last year, the United States issued nearly 8,000 visas to Chinese-born children adopted by American parents. More than 50,000 children have left China for the United States since 1992. And more than 10,000 children have landed in other countries, according to Chinese reports.
The foreign adoption program has matched Chinese babies with foreign families eager for them, while delivering crucial funding to orphanages in this country. But it has also spawned a tragic irony, transforming once-unwanted Chinese girls into valuable commodities worth stealing.
Last November, police arrested 27 members of a ring that since 2002 had abducted or purchased as many as 1,000 children here in Guangdong province and sold them to orphanages in Hunan for $400 to $538, according to reports in Chinese state media and interviews with sources familiar with the case, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because provincial officials have ordered a media blackout. The orphanages placed most of those children in homes with unwitting foreign families, many of them Americans, in exchange for mandatory contributions of $3,000 per baby -- a sum nearly twice the average annual Chinese income -- according to sources familiar with the prosecution.