- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 27, 2005

Chinese Christian leaders and activists are upset at Oregon evangelist Luis Palau, who recently said reports of religious persecution in China were exaggerated and compared Beijing’s actions to U.S. tax regulations.

Bob Fu, president of the Texas-based China Aid Association, said remarks made Nov. 19 by Mr. Palau at a press conference in Beijing are “irresponsible and misleading” and deserve a “rebuke.”

Mr. Palau told reporters that some reports of religious persecution are unjustified, according to a transcript on www.christianpost.com, and suggested that China’s unofficial churches should register to “receive greater freedom and blessings from the government.”

He then compared church registration in China to American tax law.

“Even in the United States, you can’t get away with defying order,” he said. “I feel that registering is a positive thing for the followers of Jesus. Believers should live in the open, especially when the Chinese government offers it.

“Jesus said that we are the light of the world and that we should not be kept hidden or in the dark. Therefore, believers should share their faith openly. If I were Chinese, I would definitely register. Not registering only lends to misinterpretations and misunderstandings.”

In a Nov. 19 interview with China Daily, posted on the newspaper’s Web site, the evangelist said, “Chinese people enjoy more religious freedom than people overseas imagine” and said he’d been allowed complete latitude in his weeklong visit.

“Nobody told me what to say and what not to say,” he said.

Mr. Palau was in Beijing to speak at a government-hosted event for Chinese charity groups. He also appeared with President Bush on Nov. 20 during a visit to Gangwashi Church, one of only five approved Protestant churches in the Chinese capital of 15 million people.

Mr. Fu said Mr. Palau’s words were deceptive.

“To equate the church-registration requirement by the IRS in the U.S.A. for tax purposes to forced registration under the Communist Party’s Religious Affairs Bureau is totally misleading,” he said.

“Reverend Palau’s China religious-freedom remarks will be much more convincing if he is allowed to do an open evangelism in the Tiananmen Square, just like what he did at the Mall in Washington, D.C., recently.”

A spokesman for Mr. Palau did not return calls Friday.

Of China’s estimated 80 million to 100 million Christians, three-quarters belong to underground churches not registered with the government. China requires registered churches to have a government-selected pastor from an approved seminary. Registered churches also must agree to approved service times and locations.

Children younger than 18 cannot be baptized or attend Sunday school even in approved churches, and congregants cannot evangelize outside church walls. Churches must adhere to preaching guidelines, and some topics — such as the Second Coming and Jesus’ miracles — are forbidden.

Mr. Fu said he got the impression from a conversation last summer that the evangelist wanted to be the first Westerner to hold an open-air evangelistic rally.

“He wanted to please Chinese officials in order to get permission to do his thing,” Mr. Fu said. “He wanted to be the first man to do a crusade in a park.”

Mr. Fu also released a statement by Zhang Mingxuan, chairman of the China House Church Alliance, who was detained Nov. 18 to 21 by police and kept him out of Beijing until Mr. Bush had left.

“We demand Rev. Palau to retract his irresponsible remarks, which deeply hurt the feelings of hundreds of house church prisoners and their families,” Mr. Zhang said.

Mr. Fu also quoted “Sarah” Liu Xianzhi, a Chinese immigrant in Midland, Texas, who says she was tortured and imprisoned for six years on behalf of a denomination known as the South China Church.

“I do want to let Reverend Palau know there are still 16 pastors and evangelists from our church serving in different prisons in China now,” she said. “Reverend Palau is always welcome to visit our church and pastors in prison.”

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