China: Christians and democrats forced to take sides

A small decision in a complicated affair which sent ripples all throughout China's social activist community has now bounced back through the blogsphere (via BBS’ first, of course). The facts are being still hammered out, but when three Chinese Christians—one being prominent legal scholar and veteran blogger Wang Yi—in attendance of the Freedom in China Summit 2006 in Washington, D.C. decided to bar fellow attendee and prominent civil rights activist Guo Feixiong from joining them in a meeting with American president George W. Bush, a crack started to run down between the middle of China's two largest forces for social and political change: Christians and democrats.

EastSouthWestNorth superblogger Roland Soong's near-instantaneous translations aside, while the discussion at Wang Yi's own blog paints a clearer picture of the raging debate currently taking place, Sina blogger Wu Zuolai started first:


Like president Bush, that poor Yu Jie

不同政见是一个国家的宝贵财富、精神资源,执政党的方针政策经过不同的声音而获得批评,只有经过批评并经得起反对,这样的政策才会更为科学更为合理,能不能爱护、同情余 杰这样的持不同政见的弱者,是我们这个社会是不是走向民主和谐社会的界标。

Different political views are a nation's precious wealth, vital resources, allowing the incumbent party's various policies to undergo different opinions and receive criticism. Only through facing criticism and opposition can policies thus become more scientific and reasonable. Whether or not one can care for or sympathize with Yu Jie, this kind of weakling so unable to accept different political views, is a signifier of this society of ours’ move towards a democratic and harmonious society.

我们这个社会日益没有信仰,余 杰与王怡信仰基 督教是一件大好事,信仰使人向善,信仰使人活得有价值,有目标,一部分人信仰上帝并不妨碍另一部分人信仰共产主义,政府的底线是任何信仰不能妨碍社会其它人生活,不得以暴力方式推翻政府,中国开放基督教对中国人民与中国民间精神生态具有无可估量的价值。

This society of ours has increasingly less faith as day by day goes by. Yu Jie and Wang Yi's belief in Christianity is a major issue. Faith teaches one virtue, to live a life of worth, with goals. The minority of people who believe in God in no way interfere with the other small number of people who believe in Communism. The government's bottom line is that any faith cannot interere with society or peoples’ lives. There's no need to use violent means in overthrowing the government. The importance that freeing Christianity in China will have on the Chinese people and their lives is infinite.


Harmonious society speaks of harmony of the self and the soul, which Christianity can provide.


Harmonious society speaks of freedom of religion, of harmony between the various religions. We should respect Yu Jie's decision.


Belief in God leads to equality and universal love between people; belief in God leads to an increased harmony in society.


A nation without faith will always be a pitiful and inferior nation. Yu Jie is pitiful and we are the same. As we float in the endless journey that is life, we are unable to find spiritual shelter. We only seek money and power to fill the inner void. But regardless of how much money or power we gain, our souls are still empty.


As we look towards heaven, as we look to the Lord, we are moved by our inner feeling of the divine. We notice that we are one with the Lord and have nothing to fear. We possess inner enrichment and our souls will have truly converted.


The Chinese government must be more like the poor Yu Jie that met with president Bush.


We need to be more like Yu Jie, pitiful us.

And the comments:


Even if he wants to pull a Martin Luther King, why does he need to go overseas? Maybe the Chinese people need him; a person should be willing to sacrifice everything in order to realize his ideals. Perhaps, in regards to Yu Jie, religion is just a coat temporarily borrowed.


China has hope, because many Yu Jies are now appearing.


Comrade Wu [Zuolai], how could you say there exist people with political views different from the Communist Party? You're just like Lu Xun or Tan Sitong. You'll never be a Mao Zedong. Mao has one famous saying, “power comes out of the barrel of a gun.” Do you have the guts to fight for democracy for everyone under heaven? Perhaps power may end up in your hands as it did Mao's; such is the design of Chinese culture.

For the first week and a half following the meeting with president Bush, no mention of the growing controversy was seen on Wang Yi's blog, so readers started commenting in his most recent and unrelated post, the text of a speech titled ‘The Civil Rights Movement and the Gradual Increase of Non-violent Protest‘:


Previously, in China and abroad, I've met some people in the democratic movement, so I have a pretty clear understanding why they've persisted until now. It's because for a lot of people their hate is stronger and longer-lasting than any sort of love could ever be. That's the hate of the Communist party, hate that's kept people going until now. Of course, it's not everybody. As a political opposition group, its spiritual center revolves around seeing the Communist Party replaced. Other than this, it has no higher aspiration or honor. If they woke up tomorrow and suddenly found themselves not hating the Communist Party, they'd just say be done with it, might as well just go on with life. This might lead to an even greater feeling of nihility. This would be disastrous. The strength which keeps them going further comes from toxic hate, not from opposition forces.


There's a lot of noise spreading through the internet right now on this matter of Guo Feixiong not meeting Bush. I hope Mr. Wang Yi can in an appropriate time offer an explanation, let us see and hear.


In order for a real democratic movement to be carried out, we must have Mr. Wang's general thoughts and views, or else our future will go down the same road as the current politic powers.

达袼说得好, 我也希望你能在合适的时机出来解释一下,以正视听。

Teacher Wang, I've always felt that requiring people to prove their worth through their writing is too harsh a request, even a bit inhumane. The significance of this trip of yours to America is too weighty. I may not be fully informed, but this matter of leaving one person out while it leaves a few pleased, has left tens of thousands more worried about the consequences. [The previous commenter] said it well; I also hope you can in an appropriate time offer an explanation, let us see and hear.

支持郭先生,不当人家的棋子 !

Support Mister Guo. Don't be other peoples’ pawn!


If the White House invitation name list really did have brother Guo's on it, and brother Wang if you all really did threaten brother Guo and and exclude him from participating, then I feel: first, that you've overestimated the support and usefulness that meeting with Bush will bring mainland Christians; and second, you've overestimated the political impact that Guo's attendance and the mixed messages or worries he would bring would give rise to. I might be wrong, but I feel you've used faith in a suspect way.


Wang's attitude is still sincere. The event's details are very clear. 1. The decision to refuse Guo Feixiong was not Bush's, it came from Yu, Wang, Fu and company. 2. The reason for this decision was based on differences in viewpoint and behavior, and in the end these differences decided to deprive Guo of his rights. The facts are already quite clear, and people's guesses have been confirmed. The decision to leave him out was pondered heavily. Those who love God can tolerate facing their enemies; why not with those of different political views?


Having finished reading all the content on Yu, Gao [Zhisheng: human, civil and religious rights lawyer who was not allowed to leave the country], Wang, Zhu and Guo, I see now the causes of this affair and its effects and I still feel Mister Wang acted inappropriately! China does not only belong to Christians. For the benefit of a small number of people, the benefits of a much larger number of people have been sacrificed. Was this really your intention?


Speaking frankly, the fear was of increased risk; or, put another way, the increased risk that certain groups would bring!


To see everyone arguing over this is really hard to take. This just goes to show that in questions of common sense, we haven't yet reached mutual understanding. Personally, I support Yu and Wang's actions. Because I believe that ground work in religion is possible the most valuable. Guo's work towards protecting civil rights definitely makes one respectful, but within his character exist some problems that gives one a sense of uproar, rage, someone full of hatred and lacking a tolerant spirit.


Misters Wang and Yu's actions are inappropriate and they should give lawyer Guo a sincere apology.

On May 22, two weeks after the meeting and a time when the debate had grown too large to ignore, Wang uploaded a post entitled ‘A Letter of Apology to Mr. Yang Maodong: My Stance on the Mainland Civil Rights Movement,’ the contents of which had been erased. Wang later posted his letter and stance deep inside the comments and you can read both below:


Letter of apology to Mr. Yang Maodong [Guo Feixiong's real name] and my stance on the mainland civil rights movement


Why have you erased it? It's not like we're idiots, not like we can't determine things for ourselves. Where are are there some links?


Wang Yi's public letter of apology to Mr. Yang Maodong [Guo Feixiong]


Dear Yang Maodong


Hello. On the afternoon of May 8 in the offices of the China Aid Association, I, along with Reverend Fu, informed you of my and Yu Jie's decision, that the two of us hoped you would not come with us to the White House in meeting with president Bush. While making this decision was very difficult for me, I stand by it. I completely understand that this affair has hurt you. I'm also willing, in this open letter, to sincerely express my apologies. I'm willing to take the burden of public opinion and all moral accusations resulting from this decision.


We've been friends for many years. In 2002 you invited me to Buyun township in Suining county in Sichuan province to conduct a field investigation into the county head elections. Later, due to opposing viewpoints, I rejected the plan to carry out a large-scale plan to publicize the election, a decision for which you forgave me. In this matter you respected my academic and political position, for which I have always maintained respect for you, and led me to see you as a friend. Some of the thoughts and politics seen in your book on Tang dynasty emperor Li Shimin began to distance me from you.


In 2005 you organized an anti-Japan procession and wrote an article attacking Jiao Guobiao. Contained in your democratic ideals is a certain kind of nationalism and Sun complex which disturbs me. Your hunger strike prior to and after being arrested brought many people's respect, but was something I firmly opposed. The Christian brothers whom Yu Jie and myself had once persuaded to work with you, began to distance themselves from the road you have chosen. But your bravery and initiative shown in the Taishi village incident won anew my highest respects. Coming out of prison, hearing you say ‘not-bleeding, non-violent and no enemies,’ almost made me change my opinion of you.


This time going to America to attend the “Chinese Religious Freedom and the Law” summit, this was the topic stipulated in pastor Fu's invitation letter. Reverend Fu's China Aid Association since early on has been paying attention to the maintenance of rights for family churches and religious freedom in China. Despite that so-called ‘politicization’ has been rejected by some churches, both here and overseas many Christians along with the majority of civil rights defenders respect and are grateful for his work. Like my once having taken part in advocating for and investigating the cases of Cai Zhuohua and the South China Church, which all has to do with the long-term attention paid by and support from the China Aid Association. It was only after we arrived in Washington D.C. that Yu Jie and I knew that you had come as well. We were slightly surprised, but only because you had never taken part in the maintaining of rights for churches and believers. But we understand that the Christian brothers in charge hoped to help you come. On the first day I expressed my personal opinions to you, hoping that you could spend some time in America listening and looking more and taking a stand less. But after several days into the journey we had some criticisms of the way you were going on. Regarding you and our Christian brothers’ blind estimations of the situation, regarding certain adamant and inflated ideas, as well as the wording and attitude used with people in the American Congress and other departments which led to them becoming extremely upset. In all of this, as your friend, I didn't actively seek to have any confidential discussions with you, obliging me to shoulder your burden. It was during this time that I came to recognize your deficiencies, which led to our final decision to break away from this encumbering enormous responsibility.


On the afternoon of May 7 in Midland church, we called Reverend Fu out for a talk, discussed our thoughts of you. It was mentioned that although the summit had already finished, for the good of China Aid Association's name it is hoped he not arrange any further meetings or other opportunities for you. We feel that because you command such wide respect for your work in the civil rights movement, you will get these various chances on your own. But we feel that it would not be appropriate for you to get involved in the church rights defending framework again. This kind of suggestion comes from the sense of responsibility us Christians have towards the church. That is, church rights defenders need to strictly adhere to the guidance of the holy Bible, not fear ‘politicization,’ or to oppose it, and to not get involved in any political revolt movement. Reverend Fu agreed with our views and told us you had already decided to leave Midland for New York on May 8. We thought the situation has been dealt with. Our pursuits may not be the same, but our relationships with each other had been preserved.


But on May 8, Reverend Fu suddenly announced the news that the four of us would meet with Bush, and it was only then that we first knew that Reverend Fu and the Midland Reverend Alliance had all along been working for just that. We had no idea of this beforehand. As you were up speaking during the lunch cocktail party, you announced that that this was the first time in more than ten years that an American president had decided to meet with “Chinese democratic movement activists.” After Yu Jie and I exchanged opinions, we decided that if you went, the two of us would pull out. We couldn't accept this kind of tied-up meeting; we needed to have this chance to talk about mainland churches and moreso, Reverend Fu's influence and responsibility within the framework. We also felt there needed to be and end to the mistakes seen in the organizing of the summit. The seriousness of this affair was about far more than our personal honor, loss or gain, and was something we needed to pray over seperately with the three reverends, all the things we needed to look up and seek answers for. Later I came downstairs to find Li Baiguang. I told him our thoughts and asked him if his decision was to go with you to the White House or to ask you to back out and to ask for your forgiveness. This decision was made on the basis of my and Yu Jie's determination to back out, and behooves us to take responsibility for the hurt this decision caused you.


I had planned to explain the situation to you that day and ask for your forgiveness, but as soon as you knew you made a scene and refused to speak to me, even asked me to get out. I felt there was no way to talk to you. Therefore I could only borrow one mainland brother's phone and indirectly express some thoughts to you. And express the desire to go through channels other than that of Reverend Fu to arrange a similar chance for you, although the information you disclosed afterwards in the midst of your fury shocked me even further, and strengthened my decision to refuse going to the White House with you. Not only as a Christian, on one side as a defender of family church rights and in seeking political justice, but also as one who obeys the powers that be. We cannot juxtapose these pursuits with what you call ‘the Chinese democracy movement.’ Therefore, as defenders of civil rights, we absolutely cannot endorse dangerous trends in the civil rights protection movement of which we do not approve.


Since you revealed said details, I've noticed that right up until learning of the information regarding the meeting at the White House, Yue Jie, Baiguang and I were all along kept in the dark. It seems to me what this really is is the marvel of God. The three Christians who entered the White House knew nothing and had made no plans beforehand. Trickery…trickery…what China's freedom and democracy rely on is trickery? Freedom of religion relies on trickery? As I see it, what it relies on is faith in God's love and in justice.


We all know, thanks to your efforts, that before the meeting, America's Department for Homeland Security made an investigation and appraisal and then made their decision. Nobody but the White House can decide who gets to see the president, but Yu Jie and I are able to decide whether or not to pull out. This decision cannot be restricted by any so-called voting or democracy. Our pulling out was understood as a threat aimed at hurting your interests, when in fact it stood to cause us to lose this opportunity. Our attempt at undoing of some of the mistakes made in the arranging of this meeting and how it played out ended up hurting you. I hereby express my apology to you. Further, it's possible that some of my appraisals and observations of you have been one-sided and harsh. If in the future I am proven wrong, I will apologize to you again. But as Yu Jie and I felt at the time that joining you in meeting Bush would have the most serious of consequences, we quite happily choose the present outcome.


I think, for example, that if each kind of difference and arrangement could be worked out beforehand, in the end there would be no makings for such divisions. That's why I've always held the view that trickery is just hell; no matter if you're talking about Christians or non-Christians, all can refrain from doing certain things, and the difference between right and wrong is kept quite clear. This stems from morality, not from political strategy; from reverence, not from blood-bravery. I hope you can accept all this. The three of us took part in the meeting with Bush as Christians participating in the civil rights movement; originally there could have been mutual understanding of the bearing and impetus. But your open letter, in expressing the break in a public manner, has led to a split between the democratizing church rights and civil rights movements. It also makes clear the differences between radical and conservative factions within the civil rights movement. I've been thinking over the past several days, and am thankful for your letter, as it has been the kindness of God's will in this affair all along. The making public of the division is not necessarily a bad thing; what democratization needs is not an unprincipled united front, but divided markets respectful of each other. My attitude prior to this incident has been to just bite my tongue, unwilling to criticize you or anyone else. But these last few days have forced me to reconsider, and I decided to write this letter, both to apologize to you amidst this outcome, and to recount the facts and make clear my personal position of opposition to your prejudice.


Though our roads are different there's no need for co-operation. But in my heart I still see you as a friend, so I say to you now that I'm not interested in political affairs, but like countless others, I too wish to see the appearance of authentic democratic politicians. When the time comes that said realistic democratic dream finally does arrive, I'd be glad to diligently use my role as an intellectual to endorse that democratic politician in those aspects worthy of endorsing. But today, the roads we choose to travel remain different. I honestly hope that with my apology and some hard work, mutual respect and mutual blessings, that this rift can be healed. Just because we're not working for the same cause doesn't mean we have to hate each other. In New York, I once had a friend invite you out for dinner together on my behalf, to melt the conflict. I went, anticipating a chance to apologize to you; unfortunately you were not willing to come. After May 8, we've prayed together for you on several occasions, seeking God's help in subsiding your anger. And I will continue to pray. If these recent events have pushed you further from God, I will beg God to let this sin become mine. The decision I made I still do not regret, and swear by it on the back of this cross. As long as you've yet to become one of my Christian brothers, I will pray for you forever.


Your different political point of view-bearing friend,
Wang Yi


I think Christians can all understand Mister Wang's intention, and strongly approve of your refusing him to join the meeting, because if it's like that, would give people very bad information. Hosts, understand the risk this matter poses to Chinese churches, and understand God's kindness and conservatism. As for those who don't understand, it's just as well that they've misunderstood.


Wang Yi seems phonier and phonier.


More and more hypocritical.


Mister Wang's apology, although it's much better than Yu Jie's, still leaves most people unsatisfied. Just go look at at Freedom China's BBS'; the criticisms of them are cookin'!


Lowlifes see no right or wrong in this affair, but there has been hurt. Personally, I think it originated with improper arrangements. Unfortunately the China Aid Association invited people from two groups who cannot coexist, that's why the hurt was hard to avoid. This is an unfortunate alternative. It wasn't Guo who hurt Wang and Yu, but the other way around. The final outcome is that the White House approved of Wang and Yu's reasoning and stood on their side. Wang and Yu's chose to deprive Guo instead of depriving God, and the White House chose Wang and Yu instead of Guo.

The flood of comments which continue pouring in from both sides give a clear illustration of the many issues currently being faced by the two most vocal social and political groups in Chinese society today, the collective members of the Communist Party of China aside.


  • A chinsee

    Why chinese people love to fight each other? Some people love Christian, some people love Democrats,whom Mr.Bush gana to just let them go.Please leave your energy to fight something which you people real should fight for.

  • Kit

    China is not a christian country. Alway remember that. There are a very low % of christian in China.
    Bush is playing games here. He should invite Buddhist and Taoist to meet him.

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