The pivot to freedom in Asia is like a rolling ball of thunder. Freedom of religion, freedom to gather, freedom of speech, freedom of the press are so close to being real in China, people can almost reach out and grab it out of the closed fists of their officials. The daily reporting coming out of China and the reactions by those in power to control freedom of the people are a testament to this Tsunami taking Asia by storm. Here are just a few newsy excerpts fresh off the free presses ringing in China’s ears:
8/1/2017: International Christian NGOs say there’s a renewed crackdown against religion in China. It follows a boom in people turning to Christianity – many of whom worship in illegal ‘house churches’ to evade authorities.
In an old apartment building in Beijing, a covert gathering of a dozen Christians takes place every Friday. They meet to read the bible, pray and sing Christian songs.
Every other day of the week the apartment is simply home to Pastor Xu and his wife. But on Friday it becomes a ‘house church.’
“A few decades ago there was no such thing as a ‘house church.’ We had never even heard of Christianity. Now I believe there are thousands in this city alone,” says Pastor Xu.
And it’s this growth, says Bob Fu from the US-based NGO China Aid, which has caught the attention of the Chinese government.
“We definitely have been seeing a major deterioration and worsening. That has to do with the overall President Xi regime’s hardening policy.”
According the official estimates there are about 23 to 30 million Protestant Christians in China, but Bob Fu believes there are up to 100 million unregistered believers.
There’s an old adage from early in the web’s history, usually attributed to civil libertarian John Gilmore, which proclaims, “The internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it.”
7/24/2017: It’s an optimistic sentiment and one that has been severely tested over the past 20 years, particularly in China. The country’s Great Firewall, which blocks access to western websites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, treats certain politically sensitive topics like radioactive malware, and it has turned the world’s largest internet market into an isolated digital continent. But there have always been drawbridges back to the rest of the world—software tools such as virtual private networks that give businesses and sophisticated internet users in China access to the full web.
Now, as my Beijing-based colleague Christina Larson is reporting, the Chinese government is preparing to pull up those bridges. The country has told internet service providers to block access to VPNs by early next year. It has shuttered a dozen livestreaming apps that let people broadcast themselves in real-time and potentially distribute political content or pornography, evading government regulators. And in the strangest move, last week it blocked some online images of the beloved A. A. Milne character Winnie the Pooh, because online commenters were comparing the physique of the red-shirted bear to that of Chinese President Xi Jinping.