China’s “Red Market” Destruction of Religion | Bitter Winter Part 2

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The Communist Party has a plan to destroy
religion And it begins with the “Red Market” Can religion in China survive? Welcome back to China Uncensored. I’m Chris Chappell The Chinese Communist Party has a clever plan to destroy religion in China. It doesn’t just attack religion from the
outside. It also tries to subvert it from within. Shelley Zhang is back with part two of her interview with Marco Respinti, the Director-in-Charge of Bitter Winter— who’s exposing this issue. Mr. Respinti, thank you for joining us in this park in Milan. Thank you. I do have to say that a lot of the things that you report on in Bitter Winter I really haven’t seen reported anywhere else. For example, last year the Chinese government passed this new regulations on religious affairs.Could
you talk a little bit about that and the impact that it’s had? Yeah. The regulation was published officially in February 1st, 2018, but it was in the air for some before. That was a really turning point in the attitude
of the CCP towered religion because it’s a very strict
law that almost forbids every kind of religion
public manifestation. The CCP has been convinced since years, and when I say years I mead decades, that from the Mao Zedong times on, that religion is an unnatural thing and that naturally it will go extinct someday. Also, they show that that didn’t happen so
fast so they managed to help the extinction of religion. Why they still think that religion will die
out naturally. Sometimes they help this process and the new regulation on religion affair have been designed just for that. To help in a very effective way the extinction
of religion. Today, the religious markets of landscapes can be divided into three main area. According to some Chinese sociologist who studied religion in China, they can be divided into the gray market, black market, red market. The red market is the attempt by the CCP to
tame and domesticate religion. Trying to infiltrate and control them and so this is why they’ve created five patriotic circle, patriotic association back in the 50s to control Protestant, Catholics, Taoists, Buddhist and Muslim. This is the red market, the official religion. Then we have the gray market, which is kind of mixed area in which religion is not permitted, but it is tolerated at some extent because the religious group populating this
gray area also huge are connected to some … What would these groups be? For example the Catholic church for many time or the Protestant and non patriarchal church called the house church. It’s a huge network of protestants churches. Very difficult to control and to infiltrate. Even if they are considered enemy of the state like every kind of religious group, they are tolerated because they cannot be
repressed directly. They are expecting them to die out. Helping them, but tolerating them to some
extent. Then we have the black market where the groups belonging to these area called
xie jiao, meaning unorthodox, heterodox. Heterodox. Heterodox. Teaching, it’s an old expression used by the Chinese power back in the old
days which has been resurrected by the CCP to mean,
cults. This is a level for which they condemn these groups like criminals for just belonging to one of these groups is one of the most awful crime that you can
do in China. These people belonging to the black market are persecuted directly. The other groups are infiltrated, controlled, but this is not because the CCP is good toward
them, but because it doesn’t have enough power yet to repress directly all of them. He tries to infiltrate and to control them
in an indirect way. The black market would be which groups? Falun Gong for example who has been exterminated literally in huge numbers. The Church of the Almighty God which is noteworthy because it’s the youngest new religious group
in China and the one who is growing at a faster pace. It’s very huge and it’s persecuted. It has been called the new Falun Gong. Not because of theology. They have a completely different theology, but because of the persecution there, their
suffering. Groups like the Shouters where a new religious
movement coming out of the Protestant universe so of
speak. Many groups who are considered cults which
by the way, it’s an expression that scholars don’t use because it’s a way of labeling, giving names to your opponent and it’s not very scholarly to use that. The CCP is condemning directly these people and persecuting directly these people. To the gray market, middle of the road place, one thing which is worth it to say is that they try as I said to control, infiltrate them because they don’t have the
power to repress them directly or because they have a connection internationally. For example the Catholic church. One thing is to say the Catholic church is my enemy and the CCP is not using any more of that language. Another thing is trying to repress that. How can you repress a thing like the Vatican, the Catholic church which is all over the
world powerful at some extent. It’s not the matter sometimes of the size
of the group, but the connection they have. For example, the Falun Gong was persecuted
the first time, it didn’t have so much connection abroad so it was kind of an internal affair for China. Then the Church of the Almighty God is another persecuted group who had no connection before they escaped China or the connections
they have now is not so strong, huge and recognized publicly as the Catholic church or the Protestant church so it’s easier for the CCP to go and repress
them in the dark. Yes, and like you said, to use xie jiao which does not mean cult in Chinese, but to translate that as cult and use that label on these groups. Yeah. Where would Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims or Kazakh Muslims fall in this hierarchy? Yeah. This is a good question because officially
Islam could at some extent belong to the first area, the red market because there is the Islamic
Chinese Association which is the patriarchic triangle of controlling
them. If you must belong or comply to that association, you’re tolerated officially. If you don’t, you are persecuted, but what group do you belong? I would say the middle of the road because
they can not define, even if some try to define even Christianity
as cult, they can not define Islam as a cult. Islam will not belong to the black market. It would belong to the gray market theoretically. You understand that these divisions are very
important for scholars to try to figure the situation
out. On the ground, the boundaries between these
groups can easily be overlapped and become depending on some officially, they can be completely ignored. As a matter of fact, in Xinjiang, Islam is persecuted as such. Uighur’s or Muslim are persecuted because
they are know Han Chinese because they belong to a different
minority. Some people would think that this belongs
to some political, not religious reason, but this is not true because alongside the Uighurs in Xinjiang, all the Turkey people and Muslim people are
persecuted — Kazaks, Uzbeks, Tatars, these people—so they are persecuted because they are minorities and Muslim. Again, we have some Muslim who are not, who don’t belong to, who are not part of any ethnic group like the Hui Muslim. They are Han Chinese being Muslim and they were once the good Muslim, but this is the words of the CCP against the bad Muslim in Xinjiang. We know and we have reported so much about
the persecution and the CCP is waging against them today. They are not belonging to any ethnic minority so it’s a war against Islam because it’s a
war against religion. The same happens to the Tibetan Buddhists. Tibetan Buddhists, officially again Buddhism cannot be labeled
as a cult, but we know that it’s strictly forbidden especially in Tibet were there is also political
problem and we don’t deal with that as Bitter Winter, but we know that. Tibet Buddhism isn’t repressed as such. Practically, you could look at Tibetan Buddhism as belonging to the black market. Maybe the scholars would react to these because it’s not technically true, but practically all of them are segregated. All of them are denied in their rights, religious and human rights so this is the
situation. Are there a lot of religious believers in
China? Yes. I remember some studies dating back to some
10 years, maybe 15 years ago something called Guarding
the Party. Not meaning defaced, but meaning the CCP. Meaning that the reasoning, crazing religious attention at least also
within the party. We know for sure and some scholars have studied the unwanted effect of the Tiananmen Massacre exactly 30 years ago. This is in two levels. First of all the CCP at that time, 30 years ago was convinced that what was happening in Soviet Russia and in the East meaning the crumbling of the Soviet Empire
and communism, they thought that it was the effect of some
religious groups. They studied carefully what was happening
there in order to avoid that happening in China. The Tiananmen Massacre can be also, not only, but also explain in the way of repressing potential enemies in China what they did in Europe and that potential
enemies are religious groups. Scholars have studied that. They are not convinced that the CCP was right
saying that religious groups were effective in destroying
the Soviet Empire. I mean, they had a role, but the role was also something else in political economic
reason, but the CCP has been convinced since then at that time that that was the truth. This explains why religion became the first
enemy of the CCP because they see the potential in the religious
groups of destroying China just like they think that
religious groups destroyed Soviet Russia. What brought them to this understanding regarding China specifically is that also before, I mean 30 years ago before the Tiananmen Massacre, people got disillusioned by the ideology and they started turning to religion. We saw the growing of an important new religious
movement and also, main line religions having new believers and some of them, many of them, I will not say most, but many of them belonged also to the party. The growing after the Tiananmen Massacre, the growing of some new religious movement like the Falun Gong and others, but also main line Christianity and Buddhism
and Islam can be explained saying that in face of the
massacre, of that massacre, people got even more disillusioned by communism and these effect also some official within
the CCP. So what you’re saying is that the CCP’s fear of religious organizations or that they could somehow present an ideological challenge to the CCP goes back 30 years? Yes. From what you were saying about the religious
affairs, regulations, it could seem like the CCP’s repression of
religion is very new. Well, if we studied history, we see that religion has always been persecuted
as such. Of course, there are up and downs. This belong of course to different personality of the leaders of the CCP, but also depends on the strength that they
have. As I said, I think that Xi Jinping now either
has or think to have the strength to go back to the old days of direct persecution. I also see that Xi Jinping thinks of himself as a kind of new Mao Zedong and I explain
why. Even if there are differences, huge differences in terms of history, circumstances and ideology also, he made himself president for life. He inserted his own thinking within the constitution ust like Mao Zedong did. He thinks of himself as being the real leader
of the church, maybe the new God. I’m not making it up. We know when we published the attempt of some
CCP official to go into churches, mosques and even families tearing down religious pictures
of Jesus or of Buddhist signs, Islamic signs, substituting them with two portraits, Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping. Then going back to the families one week later to check out if they were praying actively to those two portraits. Even if it’s a secular atheistic ideology, communism and the CCP know how much important is religion for the people. They are trying to substitute themselves to
God because they fear God or they fear religious
people. Yes, there is an increase in direct persecution from last year on, but up and downs not withstanding, persecution has been around always in different
ways. Again, this depends on the strength. It depends on some of the context. China today is in the news. It has many ties, political and economically with many, many, many nations. I think that that is my opinion. I think that Xi Jinping and his officials think that people will not pay too much attention to human rights if they do something wrong because they have other interests, economic
and political. I think that it is the right moment for them to repress directly religion. Maybe 10 years ago, 20 years ago, they were
not. The CCP I mean were not in the position to
do that, but the cast of mind of thinking that religion is unnatural and that will naturally die out never abandoned the CCP. One thing that I noticed from Bitter Winter’s
reporting is, seems like a lot of the things that the Chinese
Communist Party is doing to repress religion affect all Chinese
people, not just religious believers. Things like having the turning churches or religious buildings into these … what are they called? The civil [crosstalk] leader or it was civilization practice centers. Yeah, civilization practice center to sinicize religion and groups. So to kind of replace that with kind of communist
party ideology where instead of going to church on Sunday, now everybody in the village has to come and
do something else, listen to operas, talk about the CCP or something or the district people who have to kin of
monitor everybody and know whether people in their neighborhood are practicing religions or other things about
this because it’s something is spreading to even people who are not active religious
believers. Yeah, I strongly think so and this is fact because I mean, attacking and destroying religious
group or religion as such don’t effect only religious
people. For good or for bad, if we like it or not,
believers or not, religion is part of the cultural landscape
of humankind that’s been around since forever. It will never die out even if the CCP thinks
differently. We in fact see spreading of a new spring for
religion. Many growths, many new growths, many different persuasion, many phase, many
creeds. It’s part of the world. To think that you can eliminate completely religion from human culture and human civilization, it’s a crazy thing to do. If you eliminate religion in many groups in
people, you will not have art, music, whatever. Even if you’re not a believer, if you’re not a church goer, if you don’t go to the mass, if you don’t practice religion, religion comes to you in terms of culture. Music, art, literature, whatever you want. You name it. It’s not possible to separate one or the other. If you attack religion, you will end up in attacking normal people, also non believers. This is one thing. The second thing is that in order to repress
a religion, the CCP is establishing a way of controlling
society in every little corner. There are facial recognition machines. There are people who want to go abroad and have a passport and that’s proof some
questions. If you enroll in university, they will ask you if you are a believer and if your parents. There is a control on the life of the people. I can imagine one non believer being annoying by seeing his son going to the university and being questioned if he’s a believer or
not. This is a violation of your rights and freedom. Thirdly, China is becoming very repressive or is already a very repressive society. Some people say that regarding Xinjiang for
example, yes, we know the tragedy of the camps. Some scholars who visited Xinjiang says okay, we have the camps, but Xinjiang as such has become an open air huge detention camp. Meaning that people are repressing their own fundamental freedoms, liberties. Yes, attacking religion is affecting also
non believers. This is bad for the whole society. What would you say that Bitter Winter has been reporting that’s not getting enough
attention in international media? Well unfortunately, many of the things that we publish don’t get enough attention. We Uighurs, we deal a lot with Uighurs, and they are in the news at some extent, because the US, the US congress passed laws,
bills, and there was much attention in the US on
Uighurs, also because the Uighurs are lobbying very
well, in the US. But there is much more than that, I mean there are many more countries in the
world, and there are many more problems in China that don’t get the same attention. Out of many, I just mentioned one, and the problem is refugees. The persecution in China gets many Chinese
to escape. They come to the West, they go to many countries. They have the problem of being accepted, as
full citizens. There is a lot of rhetoric these days on immigration. I don’t justify all that rhetoric, but I understand when people are saying that sometimes immigration can cause problems. But one thing is to send lawfully back some, unlawful immigrants because of economic reason. It’s a bad thing if he is poor, but we need to cope with that. A totally different thing is to get back on
the spot some Chinese exiles who has been persecuted for his religious or her religious faith and these people get arrested, detained, tortured, and even killed right away. So we have a responsibility toward those people. And if we don’t cope with that we will be, some extent, aiding the CCP in its crimes. Thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you. And that’s it for today’s China Uncensored. Make sure to check out part one of this interview which we published last week. Once again, I’m Chris Chappell. See you next time.


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