Religion on the run

Film-makers follow an evangelical Christian preacher as he tours China.

Preacher Zhang in on the run from the authorities
as he continues to practice his faith

The Chinese Communist Party officially recognizes only Buddhism, Daoism, Islam and Christianity. On the run from the authorities that have just closed down his ‘illegal’ house-church in Beijing, we follow an evangelical charismatic Christian preacher as he tours the country spreading the word of God.

From believers explaining how they have less religious freedoms now than during the Cultural Revolution to sermons about politics and religion that rile against Hu Jintao and the Communist Party, and from scenes of mass conversions to hearing accounts of Christians being imprisoned and beaten, we learn how religion is being suppressed in China.

Modern villages

Guo Fenglian is the Iron lady

During the failures of the Great Leap Forward, Mao famously said to the nation that they should all learn from the village of Da Zhai. Under Mao, Da Zhai rose under the leadership of Guo Fenglian, nicknamed ‘the Iron Lady’.

As much of China’s 900 million rural population falter through the reform period, Guo has returned to oversee Da Zhai’s second rise: a quick tour around town and picture perfect China looks like its thriving – a new cement factory, a coal mine, new houses are rising, even a new Buddhist monastery where religion is tolerated, even supported, and onto the hills outside of town, where trees are being planted to demonstrate their environmental responsibility.

Once again Da Zhai has returned to the forefront – this is the China that the Chinese Communist Party want you to see – a model village, a piece of living, working propaganda. “I am now leading the people of Da Zhai to modernisation, by creating new business, new factories, and better economic conditions”.

On the surface, the Iron Lady may sound like Da Zhai’s very own Margaret Thatcher, except this is model China that’s not being run on a beat of ‘laissez-faire capitalism’, but to the rhythm of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’.

The people of Da Zhai are all stakeholders in Da Zhai PLC – everything is owned collectively by the commune and all tax and profits are reinvested into the village – here capitalist growth is underpinned by social responsibility where the old are looked after, and everyone receives free education and health care.

Film-maker Oliver Steeds asks if is this a real picture of Rural China or is it Communist Party propaganda?

Watch this episode of Religion on the run

Watch this episode of Modern villages

This episode of People & Power airs from  Wednesday 28 May, 2008  at the following times:

Wednesday: 14:30 GMT
Thursday (repeat): 01:30 and 13:30
Friday (repeat): 06:30 and 20:30
Saturday (repeat): 03:00 GMT

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