Meghan Clyne, writing for NPR, has a good analysis up with regard to the Chinese Crackdown, in which she writes:
The “thaw” in China’s treatment of Christians was nothing more than a savvy and sophisticated new twist on its longstanding assault on religious freedom. While scaling back on bloody crackdowns that stir international condemnation, China has found subtle ways of undercutting independent churches and quietly preempting the spread of free religion. Indeed, the commission’s report notes that “Chinese officials are increasingly adept at employing the language of human rights and the rule of law to defend repression of religious communities.” This insidious approach to religious oppression is no less dangerous to Christians…
One analysis suggested to me, and which I think merits consideration, is: China is cracking down on any group that is both well-connected and considered a threat to the current form of the government: be they artists, politicians, or Christians (or anyone else, for that matter). By this analysis it is less about the fact that the Shouwang church is a church or that it is Christian, and more about the fact that they could turn out several thousand supporters and have international support.
China’s government is all about harmony, regulation and control. Any entity which threatens this is going to draw a response. Any entity which threatens it in a way that could draw more people to threaten it (e.g. networking, swarmishness, relational connections, especially international ones) will draw a harsher response.
This is a very interesting case study of China trying to break the swarmish networks before they form. They are in essence quashing potential hubs of unrest by trying to prevent them from “hubbing” or connecting.
- Places of meeting are being broken up: Case Study A right now is the Shouwang Church, but there are more.
- Social networking websites are being heavily restricted in the wake of the Arab Spring
- New systems are being used to patrol the Internet.
- Beijing is reacting to anything that might be a hub of connection
- The roots of the current crackdown go back to Tibet 2008 and Xinjiang 2009.
- Police and community volunteers are being used in suburban sentry posts against protests.
- Some people are simply disappearing.
- The crackdown on dissent is not slowing.
What will happen in the future is not clear, but I would guess that for the short-term future this crackdown will not diminish. Chinese citizens will have to decide whether to keep their heads down or to stand up and respond. I would estimate that many will keep their heads down, but a few will stand up. There’s no way that Beijing will keep the news from spreading, and the forces allied against Beijing will have a merry time of it, sending out things like “On such-and-such a day, to protest the imprisonment of so-and-so, take a silent stroll through Tiananmen Square” (and then police will be looking for anyone strolling without speaking through a sensitive place—yes, this kind of crazy scenario has already happened).