Human Rights Group Opposes Anglican Head's Favorable Depiction of China

A U.K.-based Christian human rights group highlighted recent religious freedom violations in contrast to the positive image presented by the Archbishop of Canterbury during his first-ever visit to China which began last week.

During a reception for a Chevening scholars reunion, a prestigious scholarship allowing overseas students to study in the United Kingdom, Williams said China was developing into a world leader. Williams had begun his two-week visit to China on Oct. 8.

“China is emerging as a senior partner in the fellowship of nations; a country whose economy is changing so fast and whose profile in the world has become so recognizable and distinctive that we can’t imagine a global future without the Chinese presence,” Williams said in Nanjing on Oct. 10 according to the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS). “It’s a presence which can do great good; it’s a presence which has the capacity to push forward agendas…”

U.K. human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide responded to the positive portrayal of China made by the archbishop by highlighting current cases of persecution.

The case of Gao Zhisheng, a prominent human right lawyer known internationally for his defense of religious freedom cases, was used as an example of the religious freedom violation presently occurring in the China.

Gao was officially charged on Oct. 12 for allegedly inciting subversion and threatening national security. The charge came nearly 2 months after he was arrested by a dozen security officials on Aug. 15, reported CSW. His wife had not been officially notified of his arrest until after more than a month. His lawyer, who Gao is denied access to, fears that he may face years in prison.

“If China wants to present a true depiction of religious freedom and progress she needs to provide genuine religious freedom for all,” said Tina Lambert, deputy national director of CSW in a statement Friday. “Chinese officials cannot credibly claim to be showing the Archbishop the face of Christianity in China when they suppress the majority of churches in the country and punish those who refuse to come under state control.”

One of Gao’s most well-known cases was his defense of Beijing house church leader Pastor Cai Zhouhua. Cai was convicted of “illegal business operation” last year for printing Bibles and Christian literature and was given a three-year jail sentence. His wife was sentenced to two years and his brother-in-law 18 months.

In early May, a summit on freedom limitation in China was held in Washington, D.C. Organizers said that Gao wanted to attend the conference which featured top Chinese human rights activists but was detained by the Chinese government at the last moment.