February 23, 2020; New York Times
The New York Times, which last week said that Chinese philanthropy was beginning to leak out from underneath government controls in reaction to the coronavirus outbreak, reported yesterday that some of that philanthropy is coming from religious institutions.
The government’s reactions have been, as we wrote last week, unsupportive of the charitable impulse and even challenging of efforts to help outside of strict boundaries. For instance, church leaders were questioned and cautioned to stop their charitable efforts after seven underground Protestant churches in Beijing raised $10,000 to buy face masks and disinfectant for Wuhan residents.
The government’s concern is causing some lower-level local officials to turn away offers of help from religious congregations for fear of being associated with “illegal” organizations—those unregistered with the government.
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“In China, the government likes to control all channels for donating money,” said the Rev. Huang Lei, the leader of an underground church in Wuhan. “They don’t like civil society to participate, and especially not faith-based organizations.”
Some religious organizations that are registered have also given very generously. To date, according to the Times, “the China Buddhist Association has contributed $14 million to the fight against the coronavirus, the Protestant association $10 million, the Islamic association $4.5 million, the Catholic association $1.5 million and the Taoist association $1.9 million.”
Meanwhile, although temples and churches have been closed as part of the effort to control the virus, prayer vigils continue.—Ruth McCambridge