“Severe” targeting of Christians will be near the top of China’s agenda should the People’s Liberation Army succeed in conquering Taiwan following an invasion, several experts said this week.
Speculation about a potential military move by China soared in recent days following Beijing’s furious reaction to the visit by a congressional delegation headed by Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranked American official to stop in Taipei in a quarter-century. China’s military staged menacing maneuvers around the island and Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye told broadcaster LCI the Taiwanese would have to be “reeducated” should reunification take place, according to the South China Morning Post.
Such efforts would include attempts at repressing Christian religions which refuse to recognize the Communist regime’s authority over them, warned Bob Fu, an evangelical Christian who fled China in 1997 after a two-month imprisonment for “illegal evangelism” the year before.
“If there is a Communist Party invasion [and] occupation of Taiwan, Christians will be really one of the first groups targeted very severely, much worse than even what’s happening to Hong Kong Christians,” Mr. Fu said.
Although Taiwan’s Christian community of just under 1 million represents about 4% of the island’s population of 24 million, it has long been prominent in official circles. The late anti-communist leader Chiang Kai-shek was a Methodist, and at least one president of Taiwan identified as a Christian.
Mr. Fu, president of ChinaAid, which promotes religious freedom and the rule of law in China, said China’s Communist Party leadership believes Taiwan’s churches “are more dangerous” than congregations in Hong Kong because the Taiwanese groups have deep historical roots and influence. Beijing recently staged a crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, citing national security reasons, which only heightened fears in Taiwan over what a takeover by the mainland could mean.
Mr. Fu said the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan, established in the 19th century by missionaries from England and Canada, has long been identified with the Taiwanese independence movement and faced persecution by Chiang’s long-ruling Kuomintang government. Because of this decadeslong involvement with Taiwan’s indigenous people and now with the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party of current President Tsai Ing-wen, Mr. Fu said the PCT “will be the No. 1 civilian target to be arrested and killed.”
He added that Mandarin-speaking congregations on Taiwan “had been doing clandestine missionary activities inside China over many decades since Taiwan reopened to mainland China in the late 1980s,” giving the communist leaders another reason to target such groups.
“You can bet that the Christian community, I think, will be targeted much worse than those in Hong Kong, and even in mainland China, because if you’re seen as [supporting] Taiwan independence, sympathizers, or even participants, then you committed the unforgivable crime [as] seen in the eyes of the Communist Party,” Mr. Fu added.
One Christian missionary, who asked not to be named to protect converts in China, had previously spent 4 1/2 years in Taiwan. The pastor said a communist takeover would have “a very serious effect on freedom of religion and its practice” on the island.
“Taiwan is an open, vibrant democracy with full freedom of religion,” the missionary, who also served for more than a decade in Hong Kong, said. “If the PLA came in and took over Taiwan, and communist ideology was enforced as it is in China, all religious organizations would have to register with government agencies, and would be under their oversight. This would include leadership assignments for the churches, oversight of all seminary education to make sure that they are in line with Communist Party ideology, and every single meeting place would have to be approved.”
Brian T. Kennedy, a former Claremont Institute president who now heads the Committee on the Present Danger: China, said religious affiliation might be the least of Taiwan’s worries should reunification occur.
“The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t look at [Taiwanese] as potential citizens to concern themselves with when it comes to their religion or their personal freedom,” he said in a telephone interview. “They look at Taiwan merely as a place to reunite with the mainland. And there’s probably a fair amount of what you’d call punishment that they mean to mete out on the Taiwanese for not having reunited sooner.”
Frank J. Gaffney, a former top Pentagon official in the Reagan administration and president and CEO of Save the Persecuted Christians, told The Washington Times that because the Chinese only permit a rewritten religion that venerates current President Xi Jinping, traditional Christians in Taiwan would be specifically targeted.
“It’s going to be a special level of horror or persecution or privation that will be inflicted upon the people of Taiwan who happen to believe in Jesus Christ,” he said. He predicted Chinese communists would “enslave” the population of Taiwan if a takeover occurred.