This #asiaforlifepodcast is a conversation with the Hong Kong couple Priscilla and Aquila. They met while working together to spread the Gospel to Chinese tourists. After getting married, they have also helped to build the Father School in Hong Kong and elsewhere.
For over 10 years, Priscilla and Aquila’s ministry has reached out to tourists from China and around the world, who visit Hong Kong and Macau for vacation. By offering “blessing bags” and initiating conversations, they have reached out to literally millions of people with the Gospel message.
But in this episode, we focus more on their personal story. It was a joy to talk with them about the story behind their marriage, and how God has worked through their marriage to bless their families, and also to bless the nations. Priscilla and Aquila are preparing to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.
They also share their work with the Father School, to help men become better fathers.
Organizations mentioned in this podcast episode:
This #asiaforlifepodcast is a conversation with Kevin Lai, from the pro-life NGO 喜樂生命 (Joy of Life), about pro-life ministry in Hong Kong. Listen to the podcast here:
This episode is a casual conversation about pro-life ministry in Hong Kong. We also talk about recent events in Hong Kong—especially the massively popular protests against the extradition legislation.
People take different sides on issues like this, and even little differences of opinion can cause a lot of tension in families. But Kevin is a good listener and a conscientious father, and he shares about how his son decided to join the protests in a very creative and positive way—and ended up with donations from strangers—including sports drinks and even homemade Chinese herbal tea.
Stock photo of the Hong Kong Anti-Extradition Bill Protests. (June 12, 2019, by paulwongkwan.)
After zooming in on the recent protests, we talk about Kevin and his work in marriage ministry. He also shares about the surprising growth of pro-life ministry the past few years, and the production of a new pro-life movie project that will be released at the end of this year.
This photo is from Joy of Life’s 2017 “First Photo Last Photo” exhibition on sex-selective abortion. You can see the video here:
First Photo Last Photo [VIDEO]
Kevin has worked for the Catholic diocese of Hong Kong for 28 years, in the Diocesan Pastoral Commission for Marriage and the Family. That means his full time job is to coordinate ministries that help couples and strengthen families. Besides that, he helps run a small pro-life NGO, 喜樂生命 (Joy of Life). And last week, he actually took annual leave to volunteer for the 6-day Cana Marriage retreat in Hong Kong. So, he’s super busy.
He’s doing amazing work in Hong Kong, and I’m so grateful to have him on the podcast.
Organizations mentioned in this podcast episode:
「小小天使」生命支援熱線 (Pro-Life Hotline, service in Cantonese and Mandarin)
You can listen, subscribe, and leave a comment or review on any major podcast platform.
In this Asia for Life Podcast episode, I don’t actually talk with Dr. Leana Wen. But I do examine her ideas, because they’re worth taking seriously.
This is a review of the New York Times editorial that Dr. Wen wrote about her firing from Planned Parenthood, and also of some info from Planned Parenthood’s email list.
Dr. Wen tried to strengthen the reputation of the Planned Parenthood, by offering more comprehensive healthcare services. But PPFA is America’s largest abortion company, and they ultimately refused to let her change their business model.
In 2016, PPFA doubled its political giving to $30 million, to try to get Hillary Clinton into the White House. It’s possible they’ll double their political giving again in 2020. (So they’re probably very disappointed that they’ve just lost $60 million of U.S. government funding!)
But even though PPFA’s reputation is getting worse, they will continue to focus more on abortion, and less on comprehensive health care. And so they will continue to become a redundant (and hopefully obsolete) organization.
Moving forward, pro-life people should keep an eye on Dr. Leana Wen. She’s not radical in the way Planned Parenthood told her to be, but she is still radically pro-choice. And she still has a powerful voice in the medical field, and may try to steer public discourse about abortion and other life-and-death issues in the future.
People in a position like Dr. Wen are especially influential, because American laws, medical standards, rhetoric, and attitudes all have an outsized impact on global trends. For better or worse, America’s treatment of abortion will influence the rest of the world.
So, as always, the pro-life movement should be ready to engage with people like Dr. Wen, in a spirit of clarity and honesty. And we should be willing to pray, too—in a spirit of faith, hope, and love.
I forgot to mention…
There are several misleading statements in Dr. Wen’s article, but one of the obvious ones is the common belief that there were many women dying every year before abortion was legal.
Dr. Bernard Nathanson was America’s most prominent abortion doctor in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and he explained how this belief became popular.
“How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In NARAL (National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws) we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always 5,000 to 10,000 a year. I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, But in the “morality” of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?” (Bernard Nathanson, Richard Ostling. Aborting America. Pinnacle Books. New York 1979.)
This is an introduction to discussing Dr. Leana Wen, who’s been in the news this past year after being hired as the young new director of Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider. She was fired before she’d been in the role for 9 months.
I’m Joe Woodard and this is the Asia for Life podcast. Today I’m going to talk about Dr. Leana Wen and her firing from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She was the director for about eight or nine months and was, without warning, fired from her position.
Apparently they wanted someone who was a really awesome fundraiser and also a really progressive ideological warrior for every leftist social justice issue.
And apparently she was afraid that taking too too loud a position on things like the transgender debate would alienate a lot of their base. She was probably right.
But other people in Planned Parenthood didn’t think that was acceptable, and so they made sure she got fired. The acting director now is someone whose life work is basically to push transgender issues.
If you haven’t signed up for Planned Parenthood’s mailing list, it’s a great way to understand how they think and talk (at least in relation to their donors).
By the way, they’re really good at fundraising, although I don’t think I could mimic what they do. On a scale of 1 to 10, their volume is always at 11 or above. It’s just so intense, so loud, and so shrill, in every email. But they are really good at raising money.
If you want to find out more about Leana Wen, it’s actually hard to find, because a lot of her information has been scrubbed from Google. Several months ago, I was thinking of writing a longer piece about her, but her personal website had been taken down, and a lot of the top Google search results led to pages that had been deleted.
But what was available, at least at that time, were some really nice things about her history. For example, there was a winning essay that got her a special scholarship for taking a tour in Africa.
So there are snippets you can find online about her life story, and she has shared a few things in her email updates. The most memorable thing for me was her first email as the director of Planned Parenthood ,where she talked a little about her family story, and about how Planned Parenthood helped her mother after they migrated from China. She had said elsewhere that her her family were basically political immigrants.
That’s what she said, or suggested–after the Tiananmen Square Incident happened in 1989, her family decided to leave China. And she said that Planned Parenthood was there for her–for her mother specifically.
“Planned Parenthood was there for my family.”
It’s really sad to think about what could have been different for them if they had a different kind of support when they arrived in America. I don’t know.
Anyway, our job as Christians of course is to pray for Leana Wen, for God to work in her heart, and to lead her to Himself, and to His truth–and ultimately for her conversion.
But in the meantime, I hope and pray for the best for her, for her family, and for her son Eli. I don’t know what all has happened with her family since her firing from Planned Parenthood. But, she shared publicly that she had a miscarriage a few months ago, which of course is heartbreaking.
Obviously, that’s no laughing matter. Even if we’re ideological enemies–even if we disagree about everything else–miscarriage is not something you would wish on anybody. So, we should pray for Leana Wen and her husband, Sebastian Walker, and even that God will work through them–whatever they do, that God will turn their hearts like water in his hands (Proverbs 21:1). Because they are social leaders–her husband in media, and she in the medical world.
From Dr. Leana Wen’s Twitter account:
Today, I’m here with my son, Eli, who is 7 months old @ScienceMarchDC #MarchForScience
We’ll leave it there for now. In an upcoming episode (I hope), I’ll be discussing this at length with someone who knows a lot more about Planned Parenthood, and it should be a fun discussion.
So stay tuned for that. Talk to you next time.
This is the last of three episodes in the #asiaforlifepodcast on the situation of Uyghurs, including how they are treated under China’s Family Planning Policy.
And please read/listen to the previous two episodes here:
Each week, I’ll be sharing at least one or two podcast episodes. And I’ll focus mainly on one topic per week. Next week, it will be on Planned Parenthood, and especially on Leana Wen, the former director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. If you’ve kept up with pro-life news at all in the past year, you’ve definitely heard her name. And there’s been a lot of news about her since she was fired several weeks ago, very unexpectedly.
But I want to talk about Dr. Wen’s relationship with Planned Parenthood from a slightly different angle, with more focus on her heritage as a Chinese immigrant, and how I think she was too decent and reasonable—and possibly overqualified—for the role she was in, despite her best efforts to be the model pro-abortion advocate.
And since she’s originally from Shanghai, I’ll also talk about my own time in Shanghai, because my encounter with Planned Parenthood in Shanghai majorly impacted me, and motivated me to want to do pro-life work in East Asia.
But that will be next week. This week I’m focusing on Xinjiang, China’s northwesternmost province. If you don’t know much about Xinjiang, I made this little list of fun facts for you.
Fun Facts About Xinjiang
In my opinion, Xinjiang food is the best food in China. I know this is totally a matter of personal taste, but Xinjiang cuisine is really amazing. I so wish I could eat Uyghur food in Hong Kong, but I don’t know of any Uyghurs who live here.
- Xinjiang is the world’s largest exporter of tomatoes. If you’ve had ketchup recently, then at least some of it was probably from tomatoes from Xinjiang.
- A bunch of Chinese movies have done filming there, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The Kite Runner was mainly filmed in the area around Kashgar, near the border with Afghanistan.
- Parts of Xinjiang are further from an ocean than anywhere else on Earth.
- Like everywhere else in China, Xinjiang officially runs on Beijing Standard Time. This would be the same as if California were using the same time as Washington, D.C. So, whenever they discuss time, or use times in an advertisement, or whatever, they have to mention both the official time, and the unofficial local time.
- Xinjiang is the size of Alaska.
- Like Alaska, Xinjiang has a lot of oil, and is useful as a security buffer with Russia.
- Just as America would never give up Alaska. And China will definitely never give up Xinjiang, no matter what they have to do to keep it.
Something I found out this week that’s very strange—I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it’s very strange—is that Xinjiang hosts some of the competitions each year for the International Army Games. (Wikipedia article in Russian only.)
So in case you’ve never heard of this, which I hadn’t until yesterday, the International Army Games were launched by the Russian government several years ago, to be the “Olympics” of army games. They have different competitions—at the same time—in a bunch of different countries. There are over 40 countries participating this year, with games in 10 different countries, all taking place this month, right now.
And Xinjiang hosts some of the games each year. And this is strange, I think, because it also feels like there is actual war going on in Xinjiang right now, against millions of its own citizens–especially the Uyghurs.
China’s persecution of Uyghurs happens outside the concentration camps too
More important than anything in the list above, Xinjiang is also home to the world’s largest network of concentration camps. That’s part of what we’ll be talking about today, as well as some of the many societal injustices people face there, whether or not they are in detention.
The main thing you’ll hear about in the media now is about the hundreds of thousands of men who are in detention. They cannot take care of their families while they’re in detention, and that causes all sorts of other problems, which leads to even more oppression.
But we should talk both about the detentions, and about the other kinds of oppression. They’re both important to understand.
- We’ll start with food and clothing. Persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang includes things like being coerced to eat pork and drink alcohol. They’re also coerced (or forced) to wear common clothes. Men shouldn’t wear traditional clothes, and women can’t cover too much of their skin. Some women claim to have been approached by plain clothes police with scissors, and their dresses were cut on the street.
- There’s the everyday experience of having to stop at police checkpoints to show ID. This happens whenever people walk outside to buy groceries or anything else. This is normal, everyday life. One trip to the grocery store can literally require several different ID checks.
- If you’re an Uyghur man and you want to walk to Burger King or KFC for lunch, it means you will be stopped and ID’ed, and possibly frisked and interrogated. And there’s a chance you’ll get detained, without explanation. You don’t see a lot of young men on the streets, because they’re either already detained, or they’re too scared to go outside.
While most people in the “vocational education and training centers” are Uyghur men, many women and children are also detained.
Women are also in danger of being abused by government workers outside of prison, especially the many whose husbands are in detention.
A state press report about these visits also confirms that in some cases, cadres are sent to the homes of members of the opposite sex.The danger of abuse is particularly high during these compulsory “Becoming Family” homestay programs, which often involves Han Chinese government officials in a dominating power relationship with Turkic Muslim families who are required to host them overnight. This makes women and girls particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. [Human Rights Watch]
When the parents are in detention, or if the government believes the parents are a dangerous influence, then children are taken away from their homes and their schools, and they are sent to “child welfare guidance centers”.
The government has effectively created orphans, and so they had to create new orphanages, which have been built all over the province. Hopefully most of these children will be re-united with their parents, but a lot fo them won’t be. China is currently separating at least tens of thousands of families of Chinese citizens, because they are Uyghur Muslims. But nobody’s allowed to talk about it. Why?
For a lot of people in the West, they’re used to hearing horror stories about China from previous decades, with the idea that all the really awful stuff happened in the past, and things are better now. And I would say that’s generally true. Things are not as incredibly awful as they used to be. The international community has been helping China for decades, because of the suffering of China’s giant population.
And overall, things are better now. People are freer, nobody’s starving to death anymore, and they don’t rely on food aid to deal with crises caused by the government’s central planning policies. People aren’t punished for having extra money when they work hard and become moderately successful, at least not as much. People are free, more than at any time in the past several decades.
As far as the conditions of China’s “vocational education and training centers”, Uyghurs in detention are not given much food, and they’re punished when they don’t follow Han cultural norms. For example, they are punished with no food if they don’t say “Thank you” in Mandarin, or if they speak the Uyghur language.
But these are not the same as the old Russian gulags. They’re not the sort of concentration camps where the majority of people are gassed or intentionally starved to death. It’s appropriate to call them “detention centers”, because so many are put their against their will. And because of the political persecution that goes on their, and because of the scale, it’s appropriate to call them “concentration camps”. But if you feel that’s too dramatic, you can just call them “vocational education and training centers”.
China’s Forced Abortion Policy, Past and Present
I want to put this in context, both to understand how bad things really were in the past, and to understand how they’re bad now.
We’ll take this story from 1990 as an example. In the town of Baren, near Kashgar in Xinjiang, parents were trying to resist the forced abortion policy. After 250 women had their pregnancies forcibly aborted, hundreds of people went to the local Communist Party office to complain. The response was a military massacre. The military came in and shot hundreds of people. They even brought in helicopter gunfire. It was a terrorist attack by the Chinese government against its own people.
Another tragic part of this story is that the world knew that stuff like this happened. But everybody stayed quiet. And my guess is that it was because China had cheap labor, and the West didn’t want to risk losing access to China’s work force by complaining about government oppression.
Today, there are still a lot of injustices, including some forced abortions. Forced abortion is no longer common in China, as it was for decades. But there are certainly still coerced abortions, and certainly among Uyghur women.
One woman, Gulzia Mogdun, was told that her brother, an imam, would not be put in prison if she got an abortion. She got the abortion, and her brother still went to prison. She was kept under house arrest for months afterwards. And actually, I can’t even say “house arrest”. I guess China thinks it’s too much trouble to deal with accusations of “house arrest”, so instead they keep people under constant surveillance. You can call it “surveilled house arrest”.
Besides the other kinds of oppression, many thousands of women in detention are getting forcibly drugged, to ensure they’re not fertile while they’re forcibly detained. Honestly, if anything like this were happening anywhere in the West, the U.N. would respond in a clear and aggressive way, and if things didn’t change, there would be declarations of war. If France, or Canada, or America, or Spain—or even Russia or Turkey, which are definitely more authoritarian than the average country—were doing this stuff at this scale, there would be international outcry, sanctions, etc, at the very least. But, people in charge in the world have low moral expectations of China. It’s a great moral shame, which no nation is willing to address in a way that makes sense, given the enormity of the injustice.
The Response of Christians(?)
I haven’t found a lot of Christian leaders speaking out about this, and honestly, I don’t know what exactly anybody can do. It’s not like you can plan a mission trip, or send money or something. But I hope we will start to talk about it.
Jason Jones is a big name in the pro-life community, who has brought up the situation of the Uyghurs, and tried to do something. You can read some of his articles on the Stream.
In that second article, he talks some about the hypocrisy of some American leftists, who refer to “concentration camps” at America’s southern border. America’s “concentration camps” are places where immigration officers treat people at least as humanely as immigration officials in any other country would treat them under the same circumstances. These are places where they’re actually protecting people from human traffickers, who find every possible way to make money off of people’s suffering, as they look for a way into America. What’s at least as frustrating is that these same leftists ignore the actual concentration camps in China. It’s incredible that a handful of American politicians can use photo ops at the border to dominate the global conversation with their favorite fad political issue—which they have little or no intention of solving—and steal people’s attention away from the really urgent problems in the world.
I’m really glad someone was willing to point that out. Jason Jones is a gifted movie producer, and also a solid human rights activist who has worked with Muslim groups to try to encourage political leaders to respond to what’s happening in Xinjiang.
He has also pointed out some of the characteristics of a real concentration camp:
- Involuntary medication.
- Forced abortions.
- Forced sterilizations. And even
- Summary executions.
Most of these things are policy. They are not simply done by irresponsible officials breaking the rules. Except for rape, all of those things are the job of detention officers. So please don’t let people get away with trying to compare what people are suffering in Xinjiang with any of the injustices people suffer at the hands of any government in the West. It’s not even close to the same.
If you want to continue to follow what’s happening in Xinjiang, the best resource I know of is a blog called “art of life in Chinese Central Asia”, which is at livingotherwise.com/blog.
Darren Byler has done a lot of important research to help the English-speaking world understand the plight of the Uyghurs, and it’s a good place to start to learn more about what’s really going on there, and how hard the Chinese government is working to keep the whole world silent and confused about their treatment of the Uyghur Chinese population. That’s livingotherwise.com.
My only other request in closing is that you pray for Xinjiang, and for all the people living there, and for all the people who are affected in some way by China’s policies towards the Uyghurs. There’s a lot more I could say about the situation, and about why the Chinese government thinks this is all a good idea, but you can find more research and commentary elsewhere.
Uyghurs are persecuted because of their DNA
This episode is actually an introduction to a talk on the prophetic history of the pro-life movement in Hong Kong. Send me a message to hear the full talk.
Click on the @asia.for.life profile link to listen, and listen to today’s episode at:
This week’s #asiaforlifepodcast is about some of the life-and-death issues in Xinjiang, China.
This article was written in conjunction with the podcast episode, “Xinjiang—Doctor Imprisoned for Treating a Bullet Wound”. I introduce the sorts of problems that the Uyghur ethnic group is facing at the hands of the government, and share a story at the end about a retired doctor who was given an 8-year prison sentence for helping a victim of a police shooting.
In the podcast, I made a mistake about the number of people arrested in Xinjiang, so had to edit out part of one sentence. To clarify, based on Chinese government data from 2017, I estimate that Uyghurs were arrested at roughly 30 times the rate of others. Although the arrest figures are lower now, Uyghurs are still being heavily coerced—and frequently forced—to live in “vocational education and training centers”.
I’ve recently started the Asia for Life Podcast, and I’m still playing around with the structure of it. But I’ll be sharing at least 1 or 2 podcast episodes each week. I’m also still trying to decide whether it’s feasible to add accompanying articles for each episode on asiaforlife.com. I’m not sure yet. The format will probably evolve during the coming months. But I’ll do my best to give you valuable content, and welcome your feedback.
I’m in Hong Kong, and so obviously the #1 thing on everybody’s mind here right now is the political situation in Hong Kong. Is it just going to be a tug-of-war that’s never actually resolved? Will the Chinese military publicly step in? Will the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, step down? Will Hong Kong ever get universal suffrage?
Those are the questions being asked in Hong Kong and around the world. I don’t know the answer to any of them, and I’m actually not going to cover them here.
What I hope to do with the Asia for Life Podcast series is to discuss things that other people aren’t really talking about, and especially to discuss issues that are relevant to the pro-life movement. That will mainly include the typical beginning and end-of-life issues, like abortion and euthanasia. And more broadly, it will include adoption, foster care, orphan care, family separation, drugs, divorce, the death penalty, war, etc. And typically I’ll be discussing them in the context of some place in East Asia.
“Pro-Life” essentially means that you’re “Anti-Unjust Killing”
But the main point of being pro-life is to be against murder—against the unjust killing of other human beings. And that’s what Asia for Life is about—saving lives, and encouraging people not to take life.
So today, even though I’d like to share about what’s happening in Hong Kong, I decided to talk about an issue that I think is even more important—and even more politically important for China—and which the world is mostly not paying much attention to.
I’m going to talk about the situation of Xinjiang. Xinjiang is the province in the far northwest of China, and it borders 9 countries, including Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. You’ve probably seen at least one news headline about Xinjiang in the past few months. During the past year, I think there’s been more news coverage about Xinjiang than ever before. But if you don’t know what’s happening there, you should read about it.
Instead of trying to summarize the situation for you, I’m going to read how others have summarized it. And I’ll link to a Google Doc below, that contains a list of articles about all the ways that China is oppressing people who live in Xinjiang. These news articles are from 2017 to 2019.
What’s happening in Xinjiang is important for a lot of reasons. But I’m not so concerned about the political implications for China and the rest of the world. I’m simply concerned that the people in Xinjiang are being oppressed, tortured, brainwashed, unjustly imprisoned, and often killed. I’m concerned about it simply because they’re human people. They’re normal people who are trying to live their lives and make a living for their families. And in the process of trying to live normal lives, they’re being imprisoned and killed at a rate far higher than anywhere in China.
I didn’t know how to tie in a conversation about Xinjiang with pro-life issues exactly. But in the process of uncovering every other kind of oppression, I was sure I’d find instances of forced abortion, coerced abortion, etc. And I have. But I’m not going to start by talking about a tragic story of a forced abortion, or a typical “pro-life issue” that we typically talk about in the pro-life movement.
However, I will share a story at the end, that gives an idea of how extreme China’s violence and disregard for life can be. Even while it sometimes seems that they’re honestly trying to be peaceful, restrained, and understanding, they’re still willing to shed a lot of innocent blood.
A summary of the summaries of research on China’s “concentration camps”
Here is the long list of articles for further reading.
I’ll also link to just a small handful of the articles below:
This first resource in the list actually contains an even bigger list. It currently has 567 pages of references to published materials about China’s concentration camps (Note: 567 pages is really long for a bibliography!)
Next, there are these:
👉Statement by Concerned Scholars on China’s Mass Detention of Turkic Minorities, Nov. 26, 2018 [https://perma.cc/T47F-BYV7] (open for signature)
👉Twitter account of Concerned Scholars of Xinjiang: @XJscholars
👉Database of detention camps (Australian Strategic Policy Institute)
👉Xinjiang Victims Database
This database has 5,086 testimonies. They’re mostly submitted by the family members of people who are in the re-education centers, under house arrest, or dead. There would be a lot more testimonies, if not for the risk involved in sharing publicly. The vast majority of Uyghurs will not share their stories, because of how their family and friends will be persecuted if they don’t stay silent.
Here are some more (of a multitude) of carefully researched papers:
👉Brainwashing, Police Guards and Coercive Internment: Evidence from Chinese Government Documents about the Nature and Extent of Xinjiang’s “Vocational Training Internment Camps”
👉Surveillance in China’s Xinjiang Region: Ethnic Sorting, Coercion, and Inducement
You can also read non-academic editorials, like this one co-authored by Sam Brownback:
👉China’s attack on Uighurs isn’t counterterrorism. It’s ugly repression, Washington Post, May 22, 2019 [https://perma.cc/XL8F-2PQ4]
I’ll list just several more research articles, or else I’ll never stop:
👉Human Rights Watch, China’s Algorithms of Repression, May 1, 2019 [https://perma.cc/9KZP-L3HU] [中文版]
👉Patrick Poon, Families of missing Uighurs terrified to search for their loved ones, Amnesty International, March 31, 2019 [https://perma.cc/V6DP-5BJL]
👉List of Uyghur Intellectuals Imprisoned in China from 2016 (last updated Nov. 14, 2018) [compiled by Tahir Hamut & Abuweli Ayup]
👉Criminal Arrests in Xinjiang Account for 21% of China’s Total in 2017, China Human Rights Defenders, July 18, 2018 [https://perma.cc/M6M6-GH82]
Even the high rate of 21% could be misleading. The vast majority of arrests are of Uyghurs, who make up less than half of Xinjiang’s population. (And Xinjiang has only 1.8% of China’s population). My ballpark estimate is that Uyghurs were arrested at roughly 30 times the rate of other Chinese people in 2017.
👉Darren Byler, Ghost World — In northwest China, the state is using technology to pioneer a new form of terror capitalism, Logic, no. 7, 2019 [https://perma.cc/PCM5-A8S7]
👉Darren Byler, Violent Paternalism: On the Banality of Uyghur Unfreedom, The Asia-Pacific Journal, vol. 16, issue 24, no. 4 (Dec. 15, 2018) [https://perma.cc/BQT2-YP3Y] [PDF version]
That last article, On the Banality of Uyghur Unfreedom, is particularly sad. Violence against a person doesn’t require a loud explosion or lots of blood. The control of the Uyghur people is systematic and constant, involving literally every action they take during the day. Reading about the myriad of little ways that people are controlled, their relationships undermined, and their consciences overridden, is sometimes more heartbreaking than the more obvious ways that are usually highlighted in the news.
It’s all terrible. It’s like reading reports about North Korea, or about what took place during China’s Cultural Revolution. Except it’s aimed specifically at the Uyghur people group.
It’s also different because China has better technology now. They’re able to use all their new tools to be even more totalitarian.
I’m not saying that what’s happening in Xinjiang now is as bad as the Cultural Revolution was 50 years ago. That was actually worse, for people all over China. Clearly, compared with then, and compared with much of its history, China is doing better today. And the Chinese government is doing better than it was 50 years ago.
But in today’s world, there is no people being oppressed by their government as harshly as the Uyghurs are. North Korea might be an exception. Even with all the injustices—the torture, rape, and systematic brainwashing of inmates in Xinjiang re-education centers—they don’t face starvation and malnutrition. So in that very narrow sense, it might not be as bad as North Korea.
Uyghur Veterinarian Imprisoned for Treating a Bullet Wound
To wrap up, I’m going to share about a story that happened in 2014. It’s not related to the re-education centers that have been built in the past few years. But it’s also important to remember that these “vocational education and training centers” are not the core of the problem. The repressive violence has been China’s policy for many years now.
The story comes from Shache County, in a remote part of Xinjiang. At the end of Ramadan in 2014, 40 women were arrested for wearing overly traditional Muslim clothing. It’s illegal for Chinese Muslim women to cover their heads, but they thought they could do it anyway.
There was a protest over their arrest, and the protest turned violent. The police responded by killing nearly 100 people, according to their official statement. The number may have been much higher. But nobody knows, because the area was put on lockdown, with all internet and phone communication shut down.
One young man had a bullet in his leg, and he needed medical help. Someone helped him get to a veterinarian, who removed the bullet. If he hadn’t, the man probably would have needed an amputation. And he was afraid to go to the hospital, because they would have assumed he was present during the massacre, and he most likely would have been arrested.
The veterinarian, Dr. Haliq Mahmut, helped the young man, possibly saving his life, and certainly saving his leg. Because of his act of generosity, this doctor is now serving an 8-year prison sentence. He’s 65 years old, he’s married, and he has five kids. He had recently retired from his job and started his own private practice at his house.
He probably wanted to spend more time with his family. But that’s impossible now, as it is for hundreds of thousands of Uyghur men.
This isn’t the worst story in Xinjiang, or the greatest injustice that anybody has faced there. But it does show the lengths to which Chinese authorities will go, to punish people who are on the wrong side, in any way.
I don’t have any idea how to close an episode about this kind of tragic situation, except to ask people to pray for the region of Xinjiang. I have been praying for Xinjiang for the past 20 years, and believe God really cares about this region. It’s one of the most oppressed places on Earth today, and it’s not okay. So let’s pray.
There is a mention of differences between Protestants and Catholics in this article. I heard from someone who was offended by it, and it’s possible that I shouldn’t have said it. The use of the word “medieval” is not meant to disparage anybody. Rather, I meant to point out that the very vocal presence of very traditional Catholics would be a turn-off for people from other Christian backgrounds. It’s very challenging to attract a lot of churches to pro-life events, and uniquely Catholic practices will make it even more difficult. It’s my opinion that these kinds of pro-life events should do all that’s possible to attract people from many different backgrounds.
This week’s #asiaforlifepodcast is covering stories from the 2019 Japan March for Life. Listen to the podcast here:
I’m Joe Woodard and this is the Asia for Life Podcast. Okay, we’re going to wrap up this series on the Japan March for Life. I have some closing thoughts, and also want to talk about my experience with pro-life events in Hong Kong. So yeah, I was going to point out a few things that were really interesting to me about the Tokyo March for Life–the Japan March for Life this year, here in Tokyo on July 15th.
So the first thing I noticed while I was there was the majority of people there were women–and I don’t know where all the old white men were 😂. But yeah, the pro-life movement gets a rap…a bad rap for having a lot of authoritarian men in charge, which is just weird, because there are so many women who are leaders in the pro-life movement.
But anyway, there were lots of families, including the director. I saw Mr. Ikeda, who runs the March for Life events each year–and he also runs a vegetarian restaurant, which is cool. He’s also like really engaged with environmental issues. And it’s funny–at his restaurant he gives discounts too to pregnant women, because he wants it to be a “pro-life restaurant” which is cool. Anyway, so Mr. Ikeda–it was so great to see him. He’s such an energetic guy–very, just a very happy man. And he was walking with his wife there too, and also carrying his kid–I guess a 3-year old kid, who was sleeping in his arms. While he was walking and kind of running around, running the thing, he was also taking care of his kids, which was just cool to see. So, great guy, Mr. Ikeda, who runs the Japan March for Life now.
Mr. Ikeda Masaaki introducing Pastor Kenzo to share at Tsukiji Catholic Church, before the start of the Japan March for Life 2019
There were lots of foreigners from around Japan, from different parts of Japan–foreigners who live in Tokyo or other cities. And that includes people from Europe and…I was about to say, “and the UK”. Is the UK still in Europe? I can’t remember where we were…where we are on the timeline with that right now.
Anyway…then [there were also] a bunch of Brazilians who live in Japan. By the way, funny fact: Japan’s largest population, or the country with the most Japanese in the world, is Brazil (outside of Japan). So that’s funny.
But yeah it was cool to hear a lot of people speaking Portuguese. And because they knew Spanish too, I talked with a lot of them in Spanish, which was fun. And then there was a lot of, of course, a lot of Catholics. It was almost entirely Catholic.
I think I met five other Protestants there. There might have been a couple more, I’m not sure. But I think it was maybe 7, probably less than 10 Protestants at the March for Life. So that was sad for me, just because I know the founder–Pastor Kenzo Tsujioka, a Christian pastor–he had worked really hard to engage Christian churches.
And this event has become a very Catholic event. Not only the people participating but also the style. And I’m going to talk about that. I’m going to talk about the uncomfortable issues, including the statues of Mary. But first, I’ll compare a little bit about my experience with the Hong Kong March for Life, and what it was like running that, and my engagement with churches in Hong Kong.
First of all, I should say–the reason I’m not running the March for Life in Hong Kong anymore is that…is largely because of my health. I have some health issues…that my body is unreliable, especially for running big events like the March for Life. So, I’m happy to support and be engaged. And I would even be willing to lead. But my health is…yeah–unreliable. And I just don’t feel that it’s–you know, I’ve prayed a lot about it, and I don’t feel it’s something that God is asking me to do in this season. For example, like this year, I don’t think God is saying like, “Yeah, do it! You need to do the March for Life. And I’ll help you and I’ll be your strength!” I’m not getting that when I pray. I just feel like [the Hong Kong March for Life] is a nice idea, but it’s my idea, and I would be doing it in my own strength. And I don’t think that’s a good idea.
So…but I am praying, and looking for other people to take on the leadership for the Hong Kong March for Life. Most likely, by the way, it will be a Catholic ministry who takes on the leadership. If they can do it, they’re people I love and trust–they’re friends–and I would want to continue to support them as they take on the leadership for that.
Okay. I also want to talk about–I was just remembering a story that I want to share. When I first started trying to do pro-life events in Hong Kong, I started the 40 Days for Life campaign in 2016. And my first conversation, where I sat down with a Christian pastor to share my vision, and the PowerPoint slides, and talk about why I thought 40 Days for Life would be a great thing for Hong Kong–he told me that it wouldn’t work. He just said, like point-blank, “It’s not going to work. Christian churches are not going to respond to this.”
And I know that he cares about the issue of abortion. Like, I know he personally does, and his church does. But at the same time, I don’t think that he would say that he is anti-abortion. So he thinks abortion is wrong in a lot of cases. For example, like, if people are getting an abortion because it’s a girl and they wanted a boy, that’s wrong. Like, he supports Chai Ling and the…I think she runs the All Girls Allowed movement, which addresses that problem of sex-selective abortion in China.
So, he’s supportive of that kind of thing, but he also said he doesn’t see how it’s a good idea for people’s attitudes change on, for example, single girls being pregnant. And he actually said, “What do you expect them to do? Just walk around and tell everybody, ‘Hey, I’m pregnant!’, and just hold their stomach out and say ‘Hey, I’m pregnant!’?”
Like…he thought it was absurd that girls wouldn’t feel ashamed of that. And I think that’s really sad. Because being pregnant is not a sin. Having sex before marriage–it’s…it’s not a good idea. The church teaches that it’s sinful. I think it’s not a good idea to be pregnant before marriage. But being pregnant is not immoral. The state of being pregnant is not something that we should shame anyone about.
So anyway…I didn’t have very high expectations about how Hong Kong Christian pastors would respond to my ideas about pro-life initiatives. Like, you know, I’m a foreigner. I was…I did not speak Cantonese, hardly at all at that time.
And I didn’t want to just be presumptuous about that people would want to engage with me on pro-life issues. But, I did want to keep on trying, and keep inviting, and asking, you know, in each season, as different events come up. Just to, like, keep the lines of communication open. And there are pastors who are supportive.
Anyway, ultimately I really tried to spend a lot of effort inviting non-Catholic churches–like, just general Christian churches and pastors of ministries. And it just didn’t work–it didn’t go very far. And ultimately, about 10 times more Catholics joined. Depending on the event, it might have been 5 or 10 or 12 times more Catholics than Protestants. So, that was really sad.
And I have a lot of ideas about why that happens. But umm…I’m tempted to talk about all of them. But I’m just gonna talk about one, specifically regarding public outdoor prayer events.
So, Catholics have a history with prayer processions, where they, you know, they’ll take a big statue of Mary, or their favorite saint–the patron saint of the town in historically Catholic Europe, or South America. And they’ll walk with the statue down the street, and say different prayers.
They have a history of walking down the street and praying in public. And Protestant churches don’t really do that so much. It’s not that none of them do, but they…first of all, they wouldn’t use the statue. Second, it’s not a lot of churches that do that sort of thing, walking down the street praying, or gathering in a public space to have a big public prayer event on the streets.
So, anyway, I think that Catholics…they’re free to do that. Like, it’s a free country, in Japan, and wherever they do that. So there’s no way that Protestants are going to stop them from doing that. But as far as the pro-life thing–once they start doing that it’s going to make it harder for Protestants to join. And it’s already–as I’ve experienced–it’s very difficult in the general Christian church to engage on pro-life issues in a lot of ways. And so seeing the statue of Mary is going to be a big turnoff, just automatically. And that’s…yeah. That’s the uncomfortable truth. And I don’t know what to do about it.
But I did talk with Pastor Kenzo about this last year. Actually, I went to the [Japan] March for Life in 2018, and we talked afterwards. And he’s very aware of this challenge, that this causes challenges to other churches that might consider joining.
The Japan March for Life is becoming a Catholic event. And there’s a lot of, not only Catholics, but very “traditionalist” Catholics, who really want their big statue of Mary, and really want to chant the rosary in Latin, loudly. So they have a very strong Marian focus, with some very, very traditionalist–I think I can say “medieval”, and they would also say medieval–Catholic ideas. Like, that’s the sort of thing that they really, personally, are fond of. So there’s no way that other Christian churches are going to be okay with that and join.
Yeah, so Pastor Kenzo–he doesn’t know what to do, and he’s not in charge of the event anymore. And I guess he feels that he doesn’t run the events, so he doesn’t have a lot of say in how it’s run.
By the way, I have some very sad news about Pastor Kenzo. He joined the March for Life this year. But by the end of it, he was leaning on his granddaughter to get there. He arrived 30 minutes after everyone else. And he looked like he was going to faint. And he actually went to the hospital after that. He’s been there for almost three weeks. And at the time of this recording, he’s still there. Doctors are still trying to get a diagnosis. So please pray for Pastor Kenzo.
So I know bringing up the subject of Catholic devotion to Mary is a very uncomfortable subject, and I don’t have a solution. But I do hope that Christians–Protestants and Catholics–can keep the lines of communication open. And maybe the best thing that Christian churches can do is to participate in events like this, the March for Life. And…but ask beforehand that Catholics keep the focus on pro-life issues. Like, talk with the leaders and ask that we can just make this a pro-life event and not another kind of event. And that Catholics do the Catholic-style prayer processions separately. I don’t know if that would work. But yeah, my hope is that we…I think we should be able to talk with each other. In the end, though, I don’t know which direction the Japan March for Life will go.
Anyway, I do hope that the March for Life in Japan and whatever events take place in Hong Kong in the future–and also Korea, Taiwan–I hope they grow. And I really hope for the best. I really hope for the best for the small pro-life network–both Catholic and Protestant–that it will grow and bear fruit and save many lives. And ensure that many children are welcomed into loving families. And I hope we can do it in a way that is open to everybody, regardless of their other church beliefs. And I hope that we can gather around our shared pro-life principles.
Dad carrying baby during the Japan March for Life
By the way, if you’ve joined a March for Life event anywhere in the world, in…in Asia, or Europe, or Australia, or South America–of course, the most popular one is in Washington DC. And by the way, the one in San Francisco is also growing pretty astonishingly. It’s pretty amazing to see what’s happening with the–what is it–Walk for Life West Coast each year in San Francisco. Anyway…oh yeah. I’m also gonna mention the one in Amsterdam. Like, we think of Amsterdam–it’s super, super not friendly to life, on the issues of abortion, and eugenics, and euthanasia, and whatever. But it is growing–it’s pretty awesome to see.
So anyway, if you have thoughts on this, feel free to contact me. That’s all I’ve got for now. Cheers, and God bless you.
This week’s #asiaforlifepodcast is covering stories from the 2019 Japan March for Life. Listen to the podcast here:
[This podcast episode was edited from a video, shot after this year’s March for Life in Tokyo, Japan. Original video on YouTube at the AsiaForLife Channel. The video was shot at the same time that a record period of sunlessness ended in Tokyo and the Kantō region of Japan.]
So we had the march. And it was great to see the families, and people from other cities in Japan–including a big Brazilian community that came up from another city.
And yeah, I had great conversations. And it was the biggest March for Life so far, which is great. I don’t know the final number, but it was a few hundred people.
There’s something else that happened that day.
It was July 15th. Since Japan started recording its sunshine–the amount of sunshine each day–July 15th set a record for the longest that Japan has gone without seeing the sun, or at least not seeing much of it.
Since…like, in the past three weeks, the sun has only shown for a total of several hours. And so, it’s there. It’s up there.
it’s breaking through right now
[00:48] Oh…I think it actually might be shining right now. I think that counts–even though it’s cloudy, it’s breaking through right now, I think. So actually, I haven’t seen that, like hardly at all since I’ve been here.
And so I just wanted to make a point how we need to let our light shine. Because when there’s not sunshine, it causes problems. Like, it causes depression. Like, when there’s not enough sunlight, people get more depressed, vegetables don’t grow properly, prices go up. That’s what the Japanese government is worried about right now, is how it’ll affect crops.
But yeah. It also affects people’s mental health. And, I don’t know if this is related, but on my way back to my house here, after the March for Life was over, that night, I was on the bus and I overheard two teen girls talking about their depression, and how they wanted to find a guy who loves them, and how they were depressed, and didn’t want to seek help.
I have to say something
[01:47] And they were talking about how they cut themselves, and how they and their friends cut themselves, to relieve the pain basically of not being loved and being depressed. And how they didn’t see the point in trying to get professional help, because it just seems it didn’t matter and wouldn’t work in the end. And, so I thought–I have to say something! I have to say something.
Okay. I needed to take a break to charge my phone battery, and I also took a walk around and got lunch, and I actually went jogging nearby. It’s a lovely little neighborhood, kind of north-west Tokyo, sort of. And I’m staying at a Christian hostel here. And, yeah I love it here. And also it’s funny…the family who runs the hostel actually just had a baby like the day before I arrived.
But yeah. So I was making a point about letting your light shine. Jesus said we are the light of the world, and if we don’t let our light shine then people are not going to see the light.
So you know…the pro-life thing–like the dignity of every human being from the beginning to the end, and this idea that we should not kill anyone, like, we should not kill any innocent person who’s made in the image and likeness of God—I think Christians have an especially–like the church, the body of Christ—has an especially strong perception, awareness of that reality. And so if we’re not willing to speak that truth, a lot of people in the world are not going to see it. So it’s really important.
And that’s–I think that’s basically all I have to say.
I noticed the tall suicide rails
[03:14] It was funny…I was just taking a jog, and I ran past the railroad track over the bridge at the local train station and I noticed the tall “suicide rails” which are on a lot of bridges to make sure people don’t jump off…of the bridge in front of a train, which is a common suicide method in Japan.
It just made me think that’s…like that’s smart. That’s a good idea. But it’s obviously really tragic and sad and terrible that like, that has to be done. And I was just also thinking about how there need to be guardrails in society, both just privately, like people encouraging each other not to kill themselves, for instance. And also in law and also in…yeah, just the way that we treat each other.
Like the girls I talked to on the bus ride home from the March for Life a couple of nights ago. Like, I was willing to say something, because the situation—it looked pretty obvious they were heading in a really dangerous direction.
And I think saying something made a difference for them.
So, Japan of course has a major suicide problem. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but it’s still bad. And society is taking more seriously. The government is taking it seriously. You know, companies build suicide rails and stuff like that. And that does make a difference.
It’s obviously not the the ultimate solution, which is, you know, people actually love each other, and respect each other’s dignity and all that. Things will get better, when people know that they are loved.
As far as abortion…this is a weird subject, it’s a difficult subject. It always will be–it’s never not been. But I think we’re getting better. I think that churches are getting better at knowing how to talk about abortion, and knowing how to help women and families. I think churches just in general like, whatever denominational background–we have practice. We are getting better at this [in the past few decades].
The March for Life is one important part of the pro-life movement
[05:02] And we need to continue to share the message, in every kind of different context. And I think the March for Life is an important…is one important part of the pro-life movement.
And I really hope to see pastors talking about life and death issues with confidence. With compassion–obviously, more than anything, with compassion. But also with clarity and confidence. Because, again, if churches can’t do that, who can?
I’m not even sure if I’m going to post this video. But this is what I’ve been thinking about this week, obviously.
And, right now the sun looks like it’s half-covered, half-out. So I don’t know if…it might be another low sunshine day today. I’m not sure.
But, it’s up to us as the church to let our light shine before men, that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. That’s what this is all about in the end anyway. All right. God bless you, from Tokyo.
This week’s #asiaforlifepodcast is covering stories from the 2019 Japan March for Life. Listen to the podcast here:
Okay, I’m gonna try this again…I’m waiting for a taxi. It’s raining, it’s cold, and I’m wet, because I got off at the wrong bus stop. Because after the March for Life, I got on the bus to go home to the guesthouse I’m staying at. And I couldn’t help but overhear two girls from North America talking about their cutting habits, and how depressed and hopeless they are, and how they don’t really wanna get help because they don’t see the point.
So I was about to get off at my bus stop, but decided to stay on, and just prayed for them. And then finally, when they got off, I got off too. And I very apologetically approached them and asked if I could share some stories with them.
So they were willing to listen and it wasn’t really a conversation. It was more just me pouring out my heart about how much suicide and mental illness are serious issues, that have—because of people I know—have really affected me personally. So I just wanted to say something to them. And they were willing to listen. And I’m grateful that I got the chance to speak to them, and they seemed really grateful.
And at the end I said, “I’m a Christian, is it okay if I pray for you?” And they were okay with that, and so I prayed, that God would show them His goodness and the goodness of every life. So it was kind of…(laughter)…I wasn’t terribly articulate talking to them, but I was desperate, and they knew that. They felt that and they appreciated that.
So at the end, they each reached out their hands to just clasp my hand, because I don’t think people hug here (laughter). Praise God.
So last year, 2018, I was here for the March for Life, and I was literally stopped in the tracks—or, stopped on my way to go to a meeting with Pro-Life Japan. I was delayed because someone jumped in front of a train. So [after that] I learned a lot about suicide in Japan and also, in a way, Hong Kong’s influence on the suicide problem in East Asia.
At that time, and now tonight, just right after the March for Life, I overhear this conversation. I’ve never heard anything like that before, and it just seems—the timing—that this is something God wants me to pay attention to.
So that’s all I’ve got. Let’s pray for an end to suicide and for people to know their value and worth and dignity,
And here’s my taxi. God bless you!
This podcast episode was originally a Facebook Live video, which you can watch in full here:
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