Hail the New Caesar!

On the 9th September 2007, a member of the episcopacy of the Underground Church, Bishop Han Dingxiang (韓鼎詳) of of the Diocese of Yong Nian in Hebei Province, died in the custody of the Chinese authorities, after 8 year’s inprisonment. Within 6 hours after his death, authorities cremated his body without ceremony. Only a few close relatives, summoned to his bedside before his death, witnessed his cremation. Because of this, no investigation can be carried out to as to the cause of his death.

The life of Bishop Han is one case of a systematic persecution of the Catholic Church by the government of China, who insist on subjecting the authority of the Church to the Authority of the Communist Party. According to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, Bishop Han had spent 35 of his 71 years in either in a labour camp or in some form of detention by the the government. His last arrest on November 20, 1999, was conducted while he was leading a religious retreat for some of nuns. During his detention, he was moved to various unknown locations for 4 years, after which he was moved to a police family unit where he stayed for another two years. On September 23, 2005, Bishop Han was secretly moved to an unknown location and disappeared ever since until his death.

Bishop Han is not the only subject of persecution by the Chinese government. Numerous Protestant, Falun Gong and other sects are victims of arbitrary detention and torture by the Chinese authorities. This is but part of the regime of terror that the Chinese government has become infamous for.

What response does the international community take? It trades with it, following the age old myth that market liberalisation eventually would lead to the flourishing of freedoms enjoyed in the West. However, it is meet to consider Cavanaugh’s point in Torture and Eucharist about the link between the free market and totalitarian regimes. Markets don’t bring down dictatorships, they buttress them by first undermining the intermediary social structures that mediate between the individual and the State, leaving the former with no shelter against the latter’s brute coercive power.

Sadly developments in China also hint towards the aggrandisement of the central narrative of modern societies, which in turn indicts the international community as a whole. In the end, what counts is not the dignity of the human person, but the progress of the logic of capitalist production. The fact that the international community, instead of exposing China to the tide of righteous anger that was meted out on Burma, grants her what can be considered a symbol of a country’s civilisational achievement – the 2008 Olympics – not only demeans the stature of the event, but also undermines the so called free-societies that would partake in the event and in doing so, tacitly legitimise the regime that will never stop at persecuting the Bishop Hans of this world.

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