Beijing plans to continue tightening grip on Christianity and Islam

Of note:

Beijing has vowed to push ahead with its controversial campaign to “Sinicise religion”, defying growing international condemnation over its sweeping crackdown on Muslims and Christians.

Delivering his annual government work report on Tuesday, Premier Li Keqiang told the national legislature that “we must fully implement the [Communist] Party’s fundamental policy on religious affairs and uphold the Sinicisation of religion in China”.

The push to “Sinicise religion” – introduced by President Xi Jinping in 2015 – is an attempt by the officially atheist party to bring religions under its absolute control and into line with Chinese culture.

The campaign has coincided with an intensified clampdown on religious freedom across the country, especially on Protestants, Catholics and Muslims who the party fears could become tools of foreign influence or ethnic separatism.

In the far western region of Xinjiang, over 1 million Uygurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities have reportedly been held in internment camps and forced to denounce Islam and pledge loyalty to the party.

Expressions and observance of Islam, ethnic customs and culture have also been curbed or discouraged in what some critics called a “cultural cleansing” of the Uygur minority.

Meanwhile, in the neighbouring regions of Ningxia Hui and Gansu – home to many Hui Muslims – domes, Islamic decor and Arabic signs have been taken off the streets and some mosques. No new “Arab style” mosques can be built and some Arabic-language schools have been shut down.

Outside the western regions, a wave of underground congregations – including the Zion Church in Beijing and Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, both prominent “house churches” – have been forced to shut down, with their members and pastors interrogated and detained.
Early Rain pastor Wang Yi has remained in detention facing subversion charges since a raid on his church in December.

The crackdowns – especially the mass detentions and security lockdown in Xinjiang – have been met with a rising chorus of criticism not only from human rights groups, but also academics, foreign governments and the United Nations.

Vatican will improve bishop agreement with Beijing to help reunite mainland China’s underground Catholic churches, envoy of Pope Francis says

But according to the government’s work report, Beijing plans to continue tightening its grip on religion. The “Sinicisation of religion” was included in Xi’s report – laying out broad policy directions for the next five years – to the party congress in late 2017 that kicked off his second term in power.

It has been included in the two government work reports that followed, for 2018 and 2019.

Last year, the party-controlled governing bodies for Protestants, Catholics and Muslims in China all released detailed five-year plans on how to Sinicise their own religions.

For Christianity, the plan calls for “Sinicised theology”, including retranslating the Bible and rewriting annotations.

It also demands Chinese traditional culture be integrated into expressions of faith, with “Chinese elements” to be added to liturgies, sacred music, clerical clothing and church buildings. Examples given include using traditional Chinese tunes to compose hymns and encouraging Christians to practise calligraphy and Chinese painting.

Source: Beijing plans to continue tightening grip on Christianity and Islam

Vancouver accused of paying lip service to multiculturalism amid clash over plan to build condo block in Chinatown | South China Morning Post

Interesting dynamics within the Chinese Canadian community:

The new building at 105 Keefer Street – close to the Dr Sun Yat-sen Garden, Chinese Cultural Centre and Chinatown Memorial Square – would have been 12 storeys high, making it the tallest building in the vicinity. Although it was to have included 25 social housing units, only eight were earmarked as affordable housing subsidised by the provincial government. There were also plans for a “temporary” activity centre for elderly Chinese living in the area.

Almost 200 people – an unprecedented number – registered to speak at public hearings on the proposal. Given five minutes each, the hearings stretched to more than 26 hours over three days.

Speakers’ objections included the building’s height, the displacement of low-income senior citizens in the area through gentrification, the small number of social housing units, and the blight it would impose on Chinatown’s architectural character.

Karen Hoese, acting assistant director of planning for the city’s Vancouver Downtown Division, sat through the entire hearing. A large number of young and elderly people turned up, she says, and things got heated.

Melody Ma of community group #SaveChinatownYVR, one of the speakers, says councillors had probably not seen such large, passionate crowds, and were overwhelmed. “There were a lot of young people and people of colour [Chinese]. It was a unique situation for city hall and elected officials.” Some councillors described the young people as “a mob”, she says, which carried negative and violent connotations.

Vancouver-born councillor Kerry Jang chastised the young Chinese objectors, saying, “some of the Chinatown activists, the youth in particular, were very disappointing in their behaviour”.

“You do not represent Chinatown to me and the Chinatown I know. And don’t forget, I was there long before a lot of you. I worked down there, I did everything down there,” Jang said.

To have a healthy city strategy in Vancouver, it’s not just about art. When I looked up ‘culture’ on the City of Vancouver’s website, I could only find ‘bike culture’ and ‘horticulture’

“He was saying that young people’s voices didn’t have a place at the table,” Ma says.

She was proud to see so many people with connections to Chinatown from different generations come together in solidarity to oppose the application for 105 Keefer Street.

Andy Yan, director of the city programme at Simon Fraser University and an urban planner, sat through some of the hearings, and says the speakers were a socially and economically diverse group.

“The city councillors’ response to the ‘boisterous youth’ threw them … because these young people don’t normally come to these meetings. They were articulate, diverse; a mobilised group of young people,” he says.

The campaign appeared to have been a success, when the city councillors – including Jang – voted down the rezoning application eight to three.

A few days later an open letter addressed to Mayor Gregor Robertson, signed by many who spoke at the hearings, expressed disappointment at remarks made by Jang and other councillors.

Hoese says the 105 Keefer application looked good on paper. “It met the objectives, included social housing, an activity centre and set-back upper floors,” she says. “But what’s changed over the last few years is the tension between what people want. It was difficult for councillors to make the decision, because they didn’t want to see greater division.”

She admits there have been changes in Chinatown since the application was submitted a few years ago.

For the past 20 years, Chinatown had been falling into neglect – fewer people come to shop at Chinese grocery stores because they can buy the same goods in other areas, such as Richmond, East Vancouver and Coquitlam, where later Chinese immigrants have settled. Shops and restaurants are closing because of the drop in visitors. At the same time, drug addicts in the adjacent neighbourhood of Downtown Eastside have drifted into the area and petty crime has led to security concerns among businesses and residents.

To counteract the decline, approval was given for small condo developments, while Western restaurants have opened next to Chinese grocery stores. One latest addition is Dalina, an Italian-style coffee shop that also sells gourmet food and wouldn’t look out of place in New York. But it’s questionable whether it’s right for Chinatown, which is the second largest in North America after San Francisco.

Source: Vancouver accused of paying lip service to multiculturalism amid clash over plan to build condo block in Chinatown | South China Morning Post

Study reveals awfulness of Canadian investor immigration; income tax averages C$1,400 per millionaire | South China Morning Post

More on Vancouver real estate and investor immigration:

Yet other resultant economic activity is scant – in fact, investor migrants’ favourite “business” is real estate ownership.

Average annual income tax paid by millionaire migrants was C$1,400. No, that isn’t missing a zero

That’s just one finding of a Federal government evaluation of the Chinese-dominated investor schemes, quietly published in October 2014. I can find no reference to the 103-page report in any media; two leading academics who have studied the schemes for years were unaware of it before I forwarded it to them this week.

A skinny internal report on immigrant employment earnings, dating from 2012, gave a hint of what many suspected about the investor schemes, whose only real requirement of applicants was a willingness to hand over a pile of cash (latterly, C$800,000) as a five-year loan to Canada. But the latest data is depressingly comprehensive.

Among other things it reveals that 10 years after admission, the average annual income tax paid by millionaire migrants’ primary breadwinners was C$1,400. No, that isn’t missing a zero. The true average is even lower – since one-third did not file tax returns.

Compare that to the C$10,900 paid by skilled worker immigrants, or the C$7,500 paid by Canadians on average.

 Millionaire migrants’ average taxable income from all sources peaks at C$19,500 three years after arrival, but then defies the trend of other immigrant classes by falling sharply, to C$15,800 after 10 years. The report notes “increasing rates of out-migration after five years (especially among investors) may indicate a relationship with obtaining citizenship … a share of these immigrants wait to obtain Canadian citizenship to move out of the country.”

The Quebec backdoor: still open, still ripping off BC

Why does this matter? Wasn’t the federal IIP shut down? Yes, but the QIIP continues to operate and has always been the biggest component of investor migration to Canada. In fact, with 1,750 applications accepted annually, and a hefty backlog, Quebec’s immigration department is on track to funnel about 1,400 new millionaire households to Vancouver per year; that’s down from the 2011 peak, but is about the same average level the city received under both the federal and Quebec schemes in the past decade.

Source: Study reveals awfulness of Canadian investor immigration; income tax averages C$1,400 per millionaire | South China Morning Post