Religious activities not immune from regulation

By Su Tan Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-1 0:13:01

It was revealed Friday that Joseph Gu, a well-known Christian pastor in Zhejiang Province, is under investigation by government authorities for suspicion of embezzling funds. Some days ago, he was removed from his post as the senior pastor of the influential Chongyi Church in Hangzhou, capital of the province.

Gu is chairman of the Christian Council of Zhejiang. His Chongyi Church sprawls across 12,480 square meters and can accommodate more than 5,000 people at a single service, according to media reports.

Gu had voiced opposition to Zhejiang's campaign of removing some illegally built churches and crosses last year.  

While no details about the probe have been officially released, a few overseas media outlets immediately linked the probe with the removal campaign, calling it a major escalation in the crackdown against opponents of the demolition.

Hangzhou Christian Council said it felt "shocked and regretful" and the investigation was due to individual acts.

Such a high-profile figure can hardly be dismissed and put into custody merely for objecting to the cross removal campaign. Overseas media have been vigorously and closely following the demolition of churches and crosses in Zhejiang. As Christianity develops rapidly in China, Zhejiang is home to a large Christian population. This naturally entails regulation of the religion, including construction.

In Wenzhou, many churches and crosses were built out of proportion or illegally and hence became a target of the removal campaign. Many local church-goers have backed the campaign.

But without mentioning these details, foreign reports selectively focused on the negative things they collected and hyped them up to hit the Chinese government strongly.

China's governments have always been discreet in addressing religion-related issues. This has fostered the rapid development of religion, including Christianity, in China.

But religion also needs to be subject to laws and religious people are not immune to wrongdoings. In this sense, regulations and laws are critical to the maintenance of sound development of religions in China.

Many overseas media seek to see China's social governance challenged by some forces bred during the development of religion. While beating the drum for those who stand up to the Chinese authorities, these media outlets have their eye on other targets than justice. Their speculation has to be highly guarded against, pending the unfinished investigation into Gu.

Posted in: Observer

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