Category : Asia

(NYT) Suddenly, the Chinese Threat to Australia Seems Very Real

A Chinese defector to Australia who detailed political interference by Beijing. A businessman found dead after telling the authorities about a Chinese plot to install him in Parliament. Suspicious men following critics of Beijing in major Australian cities.

For a country that just wants calm commerce with China — the propellant behind 28 years of steady growth — the revelations of the past week have delivered a jolt.

Fears of Chinese interference once seemed to hover indistinctly over Australia. Now, Beijing’s political ambitions, and the espionage operations that further them, suddenly feel local, concrete and ever-present.

“It’s become the inescapable issue,” said Hugh White, a former intelligence official who teaches strategic studies at the Australian National University. “We’ve underestimated how quickly China’s power has grown along with its ambition to use that power.”

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Posted in Australia / NZ, China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(NI) Gordon Chang–Pro-China Forces ‘Annihilated’ in Hong Kong Election

Initial results from Sunday’s election in Hong Kong indicate that pro-democracy forces have handed Chinese ruler Xi Jinping a stunning setback. Pro-Beijing candidates are going down to defeat in District Council elections, the first real test of sentiment in the territory since protests began in April over the introduction of a bill authorizing extraditions to mainland China.

So far, pro-Dems have won 88.6 percent of the vote for 452 seats on 18 District Council boards. They have so far taken 351 seats versus 45 for the “establishment” forces. “Absolute political annihilation for the pro-Beijing camp” is how Stephen McDonell, a BBC China correspondent, described the result on Twitter. Tom Mitchell of the Financial Times called it a “Himalayan-sized avalanche.”

Turnout was a record 71.2 percent, well ahead of the previous high mark of 47.1 percent set in 2015, the year after the 79-day “Occupy” protests. A record 4.13 million people, in a region of 7.40 million, were registered to vote this year.

The District Councils, responsible for routine municipal services, have little power, but the Sunday elections took on significance, widely seen as a referendum on various matters because they are the only government bodies in Hong Kong whose members are elected by universal suffrage. “Sunday’s vote,” CNN noted on the eve of the election, “offers the first objective test of how people in the city feel about the protests and the government.”

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General

(Guardian) ‘Allow no escapes’: leak exposes reality of China’s vast prison camp network

The internal workings of a vast chain of Chinese internment camps used to detain at least a million people from the nation’s Muslim minorities are laid out in leaked Communist Party documents published on Sunday.

The China Cables, a cache of classified government papers, appear to provide the first official glimpse into the structure, daily life and ideological framework behind centres in north-western Xinjiang region that have provoked international condemnation.

Obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and shared with the Guardian, the BBC and 15 other media partners, the documents have been independently assessed by experts who have concluded they are authentic. China said they had been “fabricated”.

However, the documents are consistent with mounting evidence that the country runs detention camps that are secret, involuntary and used for ideological “education transformation”.

When reports surfaced of mass internments without trial, authorities in Beijing initially denied the existence of the detention centres, whose inmates are mostly Uighurs and other ethnic minorities.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Church Times) Hong Kong’s bishops renew call for calm after violent clashes at city’s university

The Anglican bishops in Hong Kong have renewed their appeal for calm after a siege and clashes between protesters and police in one of the city’s universities.

Violence escalated this week, as the protests — which have now lasted five months — continued (News, 14 June). Initially sparked by a Bill to allow the extradition of sus­pected criminals in Hong Kong to mainland China, the protests have widened to include police brutality and the way in which Hong Kong is administered by Beijing.

A small hard core of anti-government protesters were thought to be trapped still in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Wednes­day: supplies of food and water are running low. Protesters have been there since last week and were lighting fires and throwing petrol bombs at the circling police. Some escaped by abseiling down from the building on to waiting motorbikes; many other have surrendered and been arrested.

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Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, Asia, Hong Kong

(WSJ) Tunku Varadarajan–A Hindu-Muslim Clash, a Jury-Rigged Fix

Anyone who has visited India for longer than a few days is likely familiar with jugaad, a Hindi word that describes a workaround solution to a problem, often a clumsy fix that cuts corners or bends rules. The closest English equivalents are “hack” and “kludge,” methods employed when conventional solutions are costly, arduous or impossible.

Indians usually encounter jugaadin the more humdrum spheres of life—getting a seat on a train, for example, or a low-cost repair to a car. Yet the concept has now moved to a more elevated perch—the Supreme Court of India, which, in a judgment that seeks to resolve the country’s most incendiary religious dispute, has engaged in what can only be described as jugaad jurisprudence.

First, in brief, the story, which brings together religion and title to property, two notions that have caused more strife in human affairs than almost anything else….

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Hinduism, India, Islam, Religion & Culture

(Dawn) In Pakistan, an Anglican Archbishop stresses tolerance

Anglican Archbishop of North America Reverend Foley Beach on Tuesday emphasised the importance of love and tolerance to overcome the challenges of extremism and discrimination that plague the world.

He was speaking at a reception hosted in his honour by National Council of Churches President Azad Marshall here. At the start of the event, moderator Pastor Emmanuel Khokhar welcomed the archbishop to Pakistan and hoped that his stay would be a pleasant one and full of love.

The event was attended by Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, Badshahi Masjid Khateeb Dr Abdul Khabeer Azad, Jamia Naeemia patron Dr Ragheb Naeemi, Pir Ziaul Haq Naqshbandi Qadri, Maulana Asim Makhdoom and Bishop of Multan Leo Roderick Paul among others.

Addressing the gathering, Bishop Dr Azad called for peaceful coexistence of all religious and ethnic groups living in Pakistan. He said both Christianity and Islam preached peace and brotherhood and called for promoting tolerance in Pakistani society.

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Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Pakistan, Religion & Culture

(NPR) An Advocate For Kazakhs Persecuted In China Is Banned From Activism In Kazakhstan

One afternoon last month, Serikjan Bilash went to the watchdog organization he co-founded in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to celebrate the opening of its new office.

Since its founding in 2017, the organization, Atajurt Eriktileri, has publicized thousands of accounts of ethnic Kazakhs who are among the primarily Muslim minorities rounded up in detention centers in Xinjiang, China.

But instead of entering the office that day, Bilash hovered outside the door, reaching only his hand in to greet well-wishers. The Kazakh government barred him from political activism for seven years for the charge of “inciting ethnic tensions.”

“I can work as a taxi driver. I can work as a cleaner or a barman. But I cannot work as a political person,” says Bilash, a Kazakh citizen born in China. “I can’t stand up, and I can’t speak openly to my nation. They closed my mouth.”

The punishment against Bilash has bolstered suspicions among Kazakh rights advocates that Kazakhstan’s government is working to silence a prominent critic of China in order to please its powerful neighbor and investment partner. That has sent chills through Kazakhstan’s Chinese-born community.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CT’s The Exchange) Will the Largest Diaspora Become a Global Missionary Force?

The technology skills, English language (India boasts the largest English-speaking populace in the world), work ethics, multicultural sensibilities, and motivation to succeed and accumulate wealth will continue to scatter many more millions in the coming years.

Migration is fundamentally a disruptive phenomenon. The globalized Indians who are upwardly mobile are quick to break out of the bondage of geography. They seek liberation by migrating to nearby cities to live in relative anonymity, free from obligations bound up in a place, and defying religious restrictions.

They choose to pursue education and jobs that do not curtail their freedom or have them live coerced by the age-old meaningless traditions. In the process of unshackling from the past, migration exposes them to new ideas and they tend to compare themselves against other worldviews—and many come closer to the gospel claims of Jesus Christ.

As they pitch their tents in the far corners of the globe, many uprooted people from India are becoming Christians at considerable numbers. They find greater freedom in Christianity that is more suitable to their contemporary migratory and mobile world. They are drawn to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and find soul-cleansing for their polluted life and voyages.

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Posted in India, Missions, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Jillian Kay Melchior–Hong Kong’s Spiritual Battle: With parishioners split over politics, pastors try to keep churches together.

Hong Kong’s more than one million Christians are divided between the “blue” pro-government camp and the “yellow” opposition. Both sides vent their fears and frustrations to church leaders, who are trying to keep their congregations together.

Most young churchgoers support the pro-democracy protests, several pastors told me. They believe Christians have a moral obligation to oppose injustice, Pastor Mike Ng said, but they’re struggling to discern whether civil disobedience and defensive violence are justifiable. “We cannot give them very insightful or comprehensive answers,” the pastor admitted. “Even for myself, I cannot be satisfied.”

It makes sense that many Christians would be sympathetic to the protesters, given the Chinese Communist Party’s history. Mao Zedong wanted to eradicate religion. Christians got some respite from Deng Xiaoping, who ruled from 1978-92 and allowed religious practice, albeit under heavy control. But a new crackdown began when Xi Jinping assumed office in 2013. The government has imprisoned pastors, torn down churches, and in some cases replaced images of Jesus with portraits of Mr. Xi.

Yet many older churchgoers oppose the protests and remain loyal to Beijing, according to several pastors. Some think “the Bible teaches us to be obedient,” even to imperfect governments, Mr. Chan said. Others grew up poor in the mainland and take pride in China’s prosperity and growing prominence, which they attribute to the Communist Party.

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Posted in Asia, China, Religion & Culture

(NYT) At a School for Suicide Bombers’ Children, Dancing, Drawing and Deradicalization

Ais likes to dance. She knows the words to “I’m a Little Teapot.” Her dimples are disarming.

Her parents didn’t want their daughter to dance. They didn’t want her to sing. They wanted her to die with them for their cause.

Last year, when she was 7, Ais squeezed onto a motorcycle with her mother and brother. They carried a packet that Ais refers to as coconut rice wrapped in banana leaves. Her father and other brother climbed onto a different bike with another parcel. They sped toward a police station in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, a place of mixed faith.

The parcels were bombs, and they were set off at the gate to the police station. Catapulted off the motorcycle by the force of the explosion, Ais rose from the pavement like a ghost, her pale head-to-toe garment fluttering in the chaos. Every other member of her family died. No bystanders were killed. The Islamic State, halfway across the world, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Ais, who is being identified by her nickname (pronounced ah-iss) to protect her privacy, is now part of a deradicalization program for children run by the Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs. In a leafy compound in the capital, Jakarta, she bops to Taylor Swift, reads the Quran and plays games of trust.

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Posted in Children, Education, Indonesia, Terrorism

(NPR) ‘Illegal Superstition’: China Jails Muslims For Practicing Islam, Relatives Say

This August, Aibota Zhanibek received a surprising call in Kazakhstan from a relative through Chinese chat app WeChat. It was about her sister, Kunekai Zhanibek.

Aibota, 35, a Kazakh citizen born in China, knew that Kunekai, 33, had been held for about seven months in a detention camp in China’s Shawan county, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. For six of those months, Kunekai was forced to make towels and carpets for no pay, Aibota says. On the call, Aibota was told that Kunekai had been released and assigned a job in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

That was the good news. But the relative also told Aibota Zhanibek that her 65-year-old mother, Nurzhada Zhumakhan, had been sentenced in June to 20 years in Urumqi’s No. 2 Women’s Prison. According to a verdict sent to Zhanibek ‘s relatives, Zhumakhan was guilty of “illegally using superstition to break the rule of law” and “gathering chaos to disrupt social order.”

As Muslim Kazakhs, Zhanibek’s mother and sister are among the targets of a sprawling security operation by Chinese authorities.

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Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture

(FA) The Unwinnable Trade War–Everyone Loses in the U.S.-Chinese Clash—but Especially Americans

In late June, the leaders of China and the United States announced at the G-20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, that they had reached a détente in their trade war. U.S. President Donald Trump claimed that the two sides had set negotiations “back on track.” He put on hold new tariffs on Chinese goods and lifted restrictions preventing U.S. companies from selling to Huawei, the blacklisted Chinese telecommunications giant. Markets rallied, and media reports hailed the move as a “cease-fire.”

That supposed cease-fire was a false dawn, one of many that have marked the on-again, off-again diplomacy between Beijing and Washington. All wasn’t quiet on the trade front; the guns never stopped blazing. In September, after a summer of heated rhetoric, the Trump administration increased tariffs on another $125 billion worth of Chinese imports. China responded by issuing tariffs on an additional $75 billion worth of U.S. goods. The United States might institute further tariffs in December, bringing the total value of Chinese goods subject to punitive tariffs to over half a trillion dollars, covering almost all Chinese imports. China’s retaliation is expected to cover 69 percent of its imports from the United States. If all the threatened hikes are put in place, the average tariff rate on U.S. imports of Chinese goods will be about 24 percent, up from about three percent two years ago, and that on Chinese imports of U.S. goods will be at nearly 26 percent, compared with China’s average tariff rate of 6.7 percent for all other countries.

The parties to this trade war may yet step back from the abyss. There have been over a dozen rounds of high-level negotiations without any real prospect of a settlement. Trump thinks that tariffs will convince China to cave in and change its allegedly unfair trade practices. China may be willing to budge on some issues, such as buying more U.S. goods, opening its market further to U.S. companies, and improving intellectual property protection, in exchange for the removal of all new tariffs, but not to the extent demanded by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, China hopes that its retaliatory actions will cause enough economic pain in the United States to make Washington reconsider its stance.

The numbers suggest that Washington is not winning this trade war. Although China’s economic growth has slowed, the tariffs have hit U.S. consumers harder than their Chinese counterparts. With fears of a recession around the corner, Trump must reckon with the fact that his current approach is imperiling the U.S. economy, posing a threat to the international trading system, and failing to reduce the trade deficit that he loathes.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(PM) Olivia Enos & Yujin Kim–Deceived and Sold: How China Treats North Korean Female Defectors

The United States Department of State designated North Korea in 2019 as one of the world’s worst perpetrators of human trafficking for the nineteenth consecutive year. Those who desire to escape from forced labor and human trafficking in North Korea mostly head to China.

When they flee North Korea, they have high hopes to reach freedom only to be captured by human traffickers who lie in wait, in some cases right across the border. An estimated 74.6 percent of North Korean defectors become victims of human trafficking in China.

The situation is worse for female defectors, who are a majority of the defector population in South Korea and China. After getting married, North Korean women are usually not required to work in formal government-mandated employment, which makes running away easier. Consequently, more women than men defect and are subsequently trafficked.

China’s flourishing sex trade is a major reason why women fall prey to trafficking.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, North Korea, Women

(NYT) China Wants the World to Stay Silent on Muslim Camps. It’s Succeeding.

When Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Beijing this summer, he hailed a new Silk Road bridging Asia and Europe. He welcomed big Chinese investments for his beleaguered economy. He gushed about China’s sovereignty.

But Mr. Erdogan, who has stridently promoted Islamic values in his overwhelmingly Muslim country, was largely silent on the incarceration of more than one million Turkic Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang, and the forced assimilation of millions more. It was an about-face from a decade ago, when he said the Uighurs there suffered from, “simply put, genocide” at the hands of the Chinese government.

Like Mr. Erdogan, the world has been noticeably quiet about Xinjiang, where China has built a vast network of detention camps and systematic surveillance over the past two years in a state-led operation to convert Uighurs into loyal, secular supporters of the Communist Party. Even when diplomats have witnessed the problems firsthand and privately condemned them, they have been reluctant to go public, unable to garner broad support or unwilling to risk financial ties with China.

Backed by its diplomatic and economic might, China has largely succeeded in quashing criticism. Chinese officials have convinced countries to support Beijing publicly on the issue, most notably Muslim ones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They have played to the discord within the West over China. And they have waged an aggressive campaign to prevent discussion of Xinjiang at the United Nations.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) Rod Nordland–Waiting for the Monsoon, Discovering a Brain Tumor Instead

On the morning of July 4, I left Delhi for Uttar Pradesh to report a story on India’s feverish toilet-building campaign. I was out on the street most of the day, when I noticed ink in my journal was smudged with raindrops. “The monsoon has arrived,” I noted.

The smudged page also contained a fragment of overheard conversation: “We will marry our daughter to you only if you have a foot.” It was the first line of an intriguing story I would never write, because the next day I went for a morning jog in Delhi’s beautiful Lodhi Gardens.

That is really the last thing I remember with certainty. I only learned later that I had, somehow, made my way from the gardens to New Delhi’s Golf Course Colony, several miles away.

This is where a malignant brain tumor, as yet undiagnosed, struck me down and left me thrashing on the ground.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, India, Media, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc.

(NBC) How U.S. troops helped this young Afghani pianist pursue his dreams

Here is the NBC blurb:

Elham Fanous grew up in Afghanistan. At the time, the Taliban had made playing or listening to music a crime, but American forces put an end to that in 2001, when Elham was four. He is now headed to grad school at the Manhattan School of Music, and says none of it would have happened without the U.S. troops who gave music back to the Afghan people.


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Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Immigration, Music, War in Afghanistan, Young Adults

(Church Times) Archbishop Welby’s India trip to be ‘pastoral, not political’

The Archbishop of Canterbury will give a “full and very transparent account of what happened” when he becomes the first C of E Primate to visit the site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in India, his interfaith adviser said this week.

After a trip to Sri Lanka to show solidarity with the Christian community in the wake of the Easter bombings, the Archbishop will begin a ten-day trip to India on 31 August, travelling to seven cities and towns in the Church of North India and the Church of South India.

At a briefing for journalists on Tuesday, his interfaith adviser, the Revd Dr Richard Sudworth, emphasised that the visit was pastoral rather than political, after being questioned about whether the Archbishop would be challenging the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on the status of minorities (News, 16 January 2015).

“The Archbishop will be going to listen and learn what the situation is,” he said. “There seems to be a very varied picture, and what we are encouraged by here is that the Indian constitution does give freedom of religion and belief, and that is something we will be hoping to affirm and hear about as we travel around.”

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, India, Religion & Culture

(NYT) China Says It Has Released Most Muslims Held in Camps. That’s Difficult to Prove.

Senior Chinese officials made the surprising announcement on Tuesday that the authorities had released most detainees held in the government’s mass internment program for ethnic minority Muslims in China’s far west, but provided no firm numbers or specific details to support their assertion.

Alken Tuniaz, vice chairman of the government of the region of Xinjiang, said 90 percent of people held in what the government calls vocational training centers had been returned to society. It was a contention that would be nearly impossible to independently verify in the tightly controlled region and flew in the face of accounts of disappearances and detentions that have been compiled by relatives abroad and human rights groups.

Detainees who have been released from the camps say they were subjected to a high-pressure indoctrination program with the goal of removing any devotion to Islam and encouraging loyalty to China and its ruling Communist Party.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture

(Local Paper) Charleston-area churches, bookstores could feel Trump tariffs and so-called ‘Bible tax’

Christian book publishers and some Charleston-area faith leaders fear that a proposed tariff on Chinese imports could lead to a shortage of Bibles in the United States.

Millions of Bibles are produced in China annually and a 25 percent tariff recently proposed by President Donald Trump would make it more expensive to print the religious text, according to Mark Schoenwald, CEO of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. That cost increase likely would be passed on to consumers, who would pay more for the world’s best-selling book.

If the 25 percent increase is reflected in the sticker price, a Bible that costs $15 today would cost $18.50 after the tariff takes effect.

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Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Books, China, Economy, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(BBC) Faith in ruins: China’s vanishing beards and mosques

“The BBC has found new evidence of the increasing control and suppression of Islam in China’s far western region of Xinjiang – including the widespread destruction of mosques.

Authorities provided rare access to religious sites and senior Islamic officials to support their claim that their policies only target violent religious extremism, not faith itself.

But after his official tour was over, China Correspondent John Sudworth set out to investigate.”

Watch it all (about 5 1/3 mins).

Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(ABC Aus) Hong Kong Christians turn ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ into unlikely protest anthem

In Hong Kong there have long been links between the pro-democracy activists and in particular the Catholic Church, which has a decades-long unresolved dispute with China’s Government over the right to ordain bishops.

The city’s most prominent young political activist, Joshua Wong, is a devout Christian, as are many older members of the pan-democratic camp.

“Some Christians, including me, are afraid that if the extradition bill is passed, it could affect freedom of religion in Hong Kong and freedom of religious activities,” Mr [Edwin] Chow said.

He believes it is this fear that has mobilised a larger-than-normal turn-out among the city’s Christians, who number around 900,000 — or about 12 per cent of the population.

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Posted in China, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Music, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT) A Muslim Family Sought Help at the Belgian Embassy in Beijing. The Police Dragged Them Out.

The last time Abdulhamid Tursun spoke to his wife, she was huddled in a Beijing hotel room with their four children, frightened after being evicted from the Belgian Embassy in the dead of night. Suddenly, plainclothes police officers burst into the room, cutting off the couple’s video call.

Mr. Tursun says he has not heard from her since.

His wife, Wureyetiguli Abula, 43, had gone to the Belgian Embassy to seek visas so the family — from the Uighur Muslim minority group — could be reunited with Mr. Tursun, 51, in Brussels, where he won asylum in 2017.

But instead of finding protection, Ms. Abula and her children, ages 5 to 17, were dragged away after the Chinese police were allowed to enter the embassy.

Now the case is raising alarms back in Belgium, where lawmakers are asking how it could have happened and where Mr. Tursun’s family has been taken. It illustrates how, two years after China began detaining Uighurs in a vast network of internment camps, the group has limited protections — even from Western democracies — against persecution by the Chinese government.

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Posted in Belgium, Children, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(BBC) Inside China’s ‘thought transformation’ camps

The BBC has been given rare access to the vast system of highly secure facilities thought to be holding more than a million Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

Authorities there insist they are just training schools. But the BBC’s visit uncovers important evidence about the nature of the system and the conditions for the people inside it.

Watch it all (just under 12 minutes).

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) China Frees Church Leader After 6 Months in Detention

A key figure in one of China’s best-known churches was released on bail this week, six months after she and dozens of other members of the congregation were detained and their church was closed.

The release on Tuesday of Jiang Rong, 46, still leaves her husband, Wang Yi, pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church, and four other church members in detention. According to a church news release posted on the church’s Facebook page, Ms. Jiang was reunited with the couple’s son, Shuya, who had been living without his parents since they were detained on Dec. 9.

News of the release of Ms. Jiang and another church member was confirmed by a human rights lawyer familiar with the case, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of government retribution.

More than 100 members of Early Rain, which is based in the southwestern city of Chengdu, were detained on Dec. 9 as part of a continuing crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state. About half of them were quickly released, but 54 were held for a period of days or months.

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Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) As Trade War With U.S. Grinds On, Chinese Tourists Stay Away

A new battlefront has opened in the trade war between the United States and China: the $1.6 trillion American travel industry.

A Los Angeles hotel long popular with Chinese travelers saw a 23 percent decline in visits last year and another 10 percent so far this year. In New York City, spending by Chinese tourists, who spend nearly twice as much as other foreign visitors, fell 12 percent in the first quarter. And in San Francisco, busloads of Chinese tourists were once a mainstay of one fine jewelry business; over the last few years, the buses stopped coming.

Figures from the Commerce Department’s National Travel and Tourism Office show a sharp decline in the number of tourists from China last year.

Industry professionals worry that the drop-off is picking up speed this year, affecting not just airlines, hotels and restaurants, but also retailers and attractions like amusement parks and casinos.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Travel

(Wash Post) Ajay Verghese–Is India becoming a ‘Hindu state’?

So what does the BJP’s victory mean for Indian secularism?

First off, the term “secularism” is quite different in Indian politics — it’s not what U.S. audiences imagine it to be: a separation between church and state. Instead, it refers to religious neutrality (dharmnirpekshta): the equal treatment of all religious communities, irrespective of size, by the government.

Secularism in India is less concerned with religion interfering in politics (as in the United States) than with the state interfering in religion. As Rajeev Bhargava argues, Indian secularism is about maintaining a “principled distance” between the state and religion.

To get a better understanding of secularism in India, I conducted research in villages in the northern Indian state of Bihar in late 2017, and in February 2018, I conducted a survey of 900 Hindus across the state on religion and politics.

My preliminary findings show that Hindus in Bihar overwhelmingly support many of the ideals of Indian secularism — even government support for mosques. Critically, however, this is not true for more pious Hindus: The more religious voters are, the more they subscribe to the tenets of Hindu nationalism, especially the idea that Hindus deserve preferential treatment over Muslims.

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Posted in Hinduism, India, Religion & Culture

(NYT) All 9 of Sri Lanka’s Muslim Ministers Resign, as Bombing Backlash Intensifies

All nine Muslim ministers in Sri Lanka’s government and two Muslim provincial governors resigned on Monday as the fragile, Buddhist-majority country grappled further with the communal backlash of the Easter Sunday bombings that killed as many as 250 people.

The resignations were in response to a hunger strike by an influential Buddhist monk, Athuraliye Rathana, who said he would fast to death unless the country’s president removed three senior Muslim officials — the two provincial governors and one of the ministers — that he accuses of having ties to the suicide bombers who targeted churches and hotels.

The eight ministers not targeted by Mr. Rathana announced their resignations in what appeared to be an act of solidarity with the three officials accused by the monk, who also serves as a member of Parliament and an adviser to the president, Maithripala Sirisena.

Read it all.

Posted in Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, Violence

(BBC) The man who might have stopped Sri Lanka’s Easter bombings

In March, just over a month before the Easter attacks, a gunman quietly entered [Mohammad Razak] Taslim’s house in the early hours of the morning. He was lying in bed, next to his wife, and his youngest son. The gunman shot him once in the head.

“At first I thought the phone charger had exploded, but I looked and it was fine,” Taslim’s wife told me. “Then I tried to wake him up, and I could smell gunpowder… I reached out to him and I realised he wasn’t conscious. I thought he was dead.”

Taslim was rushed to hospital. He survived the attack, but it’s not clear if he will ever fully recover.

Sri Lanka’s army commander, Lt Gen Mahesh Senanayake, is now playing a leading role in the investigation into the Easter Bombings. He told me it had been confirmed that the “same network” was also responsible for the desecration of the Buddhist statues, the explosives hidden in the coconut grove, and the shooting of Taslim.

He admitted that the previous incidents should have made the authorities more alert to the dangers of a jihadist attack. Instead, warnings by the Indian security services in the days and hours leading up the bombings weren’t followed up, due to what the army commander referred to as problems with “intelligence sharing” between different departments.

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(NYT) Trade War Starts Changing Manufacturers in Hard-to-Reverse Ways

…evidence is mounting that the conflict has taken an economic toll. The Commerce Department said Thursday that trade — both imports and exports — slumped in April, and data released earlier this week showed a sharp slowdown in manufacturing, amplifying a recent trend. The bond market in recent days has been sending signals that the trade war could be a threat to growth in the United States and globally. The impact could deepen if Mr. Trump follows through on his promise, made Thursday, to impose new tariffs on imports from Mexico.

And as the conflict drags on, there are signs it is beginning to reshape the global economy in more fundamental ways.

“There’s definitely lasting damage that has been done,” said Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s not going to mean the end of the world tomorrow, but it’s death by a thousand cuts. How competitive is America going to be in 10 or 15 years?”

Tariffs have not yet compelled businesses to return large-scale production to the United States, where labor and other costs tend to be much higher than in China and other overseas manufacturing hubs.

But trade tensions are accelerating a corporate trend of shifting supply chains away from China. In a recent survey of more than 200 corporate executives by the consulting firm Bain, 42 percent said they expected to get materials from a different region in the next year, and 25 percent said they were redirecting investments out of China.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(WSJ) Nina Shea and Bob Fu–Inside China’s War on Christians

President Xi Jinping last year began enforcing religious regulations to rein in church growth and bend Christian belief to party dictates. Mr. Xi gave direct control of churches to the officially atheistic Communist Party. Some urban underground megachurches were shut down. Thousands of congregants were arrested and several prominent Protestant pastors received lengthy prison sentences. Earlier this month, the regime launched a nationwide campaign to eradicate unregistered churches.

Mr. Xi calls this policy “sinicization.” The goal is to make religions “instruments of the Party,” the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions asserts. The government confirmed this when it inadvertently posted internal documents—downloaded by ChinaAid, a nonprofit Christian human-rights organization—revealing that it intended to “contain the overheated growth of Christianity.”

Last year in Henan province, 10,000 Protestant churches were ordered shut, even though most were registered with the state. During 2018, more than one million Christians were threatened or persecuted and 5,000 arrested. Among them is an American permanent resident, Pastor John Sanqiang Cao, 60, who is serving seven years for “organizing illegal border crossings” to deliver aid in Myanmar.

Mr. Xi’s regulations also ban minors from entering churches and forbid Sunday schools and Bible camps. In churches, Christian symbols sometimes are being replaced with pictures of Mr. Xi. Surviving churches may substitute biblical teachings with socialist values.

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Posted in China, Religion & Culture