Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rumor In China: Freedom of Speech Coming Soon?

It might be a coincidence. It might not be. The proverbial wall might be coming down in China soon.
Just shortly after the LDS Church announces that it is expanding in to mainland China, former Chinese government officials are demanding that the practice of censorship end in China: 
Almost two dozen former Chinese Communist Party officials and academics have signed a petition demanding that government censorship in China be dismantled in favor of the freedom-of-speech rights enshrined in the national constitution.
The open Internet letter surfaced just days after jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize and shortly before the ruling Communist Party’s central committee convenes for meetings that some observers expect to include discussion of political reform.
“We hope they will take action,” said Zhong Peizhang, a signatory who headed the news bureau of the government’s Central Propaganda Department from 1982 to 1986. “As it says in the letter: to cancel censorship in favor of a system of legal responsibility.”
The letter is seeking to appeal to the Communist leaders desires to see China's catch up with the with the modern world:
In one section, the letter says that China’s censorship system is “315 years behind England and 129 years behind France.” Farther down, it says bluntly, “Our propaganda organs have a horrid reputation within the party and in society.”
The people of China have been fighting for freedom for a very long time. The most famous example is the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest. However, if freedom comes, it will come quietly. And it might come as China finds a way to allow the Church to operate in China without it being in a legal limbo:
The Chinese government recognizes only five religious groups: Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Muslim and Taoists (the only native Chinese faith, the others all were imported).
Mormonism, which did not break off from other forms of Christianity but rather claims to be the restoration of Jesus’ original church, does not fit into any of those groups.
“As religions have become more and more common in China and as religion is more freely practiced, government officials are left with this straitjacket of categories,” Hyer said. “They don’t know what to do. Are they going to create a new category?”
Regardless of how China decides to categorize the Church, allowing the Church to regularize its operations in China is step towards freedom of speech in China since the freedom of religion requires people have the right to express their religious beliefs. The LDS Church already has a temple in China in Hong Kong and it has expatriate branches in China. And while the Church doesn't have any missionaries in China, it sends Chinese speaking missionaries to other parts of the world and converts Chinese citizens living abroad. Moreover, some people have taken it upon themselves to share the gospel online in Chinese. And as more Chinese people join the Church in other parts of the world, it will have an impact on the Chinese government at home. 
With China permitting the Church to expand into China, maybe freedom of speech will come to China sooner than we think. 

1 comment:

Thorsted said...

Very exciting! I still think we have awhile before missionaries are posing at the great wall, but hopefully not too long. Thanks for the post.