« The lovely (and tasty) yak | Main | Troubles in Tibet »

My religion is better

Christian missionaries are not allowed to work and live in China, but they are here under other guises. Many work as English teachers. Some open businesses. Still others are diplomats who seem to do proselytizing on the side.

Some use guerrilla tactics to proselytize among Tibetan Buddhists, Muslim Uighurs and other minority groups. It’s a little disturbing.

Despite its ban, the Chinese government appears to turn a blind eye to this matter. Perhaps it’s because English teachers are needed. While Christian proselytizers tend to operate all through China, I’ve noticed they are mostly in minority areas – where Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Korean minorities live, where Chinese authorities probably don’t mind if endemic religious influence is diluted..

This might seem just a curiosity. Except that signs are emerging that some young Christians are taking a radical approach to proselyzing.

They travel through China doing what they call “tract-bombing,” passing out literature. For a rather shocking travel diary of some young Christians in remote Qinghai province, click here. An excerpt of this young man’s diary reads:

“Man how blinded these people are. I have never been in more intense prayer in my life. The next moment things got a little harry (sic) because people in our group were getting very bold about where they were placing tracks (sic) and monks were finding them. We then split into two teams because we wanted to shower this place with prayer and tracks and also go to the mountain behind the monastery and plant our cross that we had made.”

I wonder how U.S. Christians would feel if Chinese Buddhists wanted to come to America and in the dark of night build stupas behind churches or light incense on their front steps?

A quick look on the internet turns up many sites of Christians engaging in “tract-bombing” in China. Click here and here to see a couple.

Full disclosure: My grandparents were Methodist missionaries in Fujian province in the 1920s. Moreover, this is a subject of personal interest and observation. Our elder daughter’s school in Beijing seems to have a lot of American kids who are from Mormon families. Once when I was out in Kashgar in China’s far west Muslim region, I came across a modern coffee bar run by an American Christian. I never met him but people in town said it was a Christian hub for trying to convert Muslim Uighurs, a downtrodden people.

Now, I’m sitting in a coffee bar in Lhasa that also appears to be run by U.S. Christians. A conversation with a local foreigner revealed that more than a dozen local English teachers are Christians seeking to convert students, often from their base at the Tibet Social Science Academy.

What’s interesting is that some of these Christians use denial and deception about what they are doing, employing “tradecraft” more commonly associated with spying.

Anyone who can guide me to more information, please drop me a line at tjohnson@mcclatchydc.com with some mention of religion in the message line.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference My religion is better:



Christians are the only one I know of who take advantage of the weak, poor, and uneducated to force them into fear, denial, and eventually hatered towards other religion. Shame!!!

Bod Rangzen

It is shocking that this is still happening in modern times. Religious extrememists from the West are taking advantage of China's genocidal repression, with both parties hell-bent on wiping out the indigenous culture.

Maybe this christian extremist view explains why the evangelical world leaders Bush and Blair have refused to do anything at all to help the Tibetans' plight under Chinese occupation!


Nice site! Get yourself Adsense account, you can make nice money from this blog.
Check out here:

China Law Blog

Tim --

You are going to have to turn this into a big feature story. I smell Pullitzer.


I sure you are similarly traumatised/disturbed when the republicans or the democrats publish ads claiming their party is 'better'.Oh the bigotry! Why cant we all just live with one party...oops, isn't that fascism?


Atleast they dont go around begging for money like the 'Hare Krishnas', or set up ashrams for brainwashing using a combination of drugs and sex or prosletyse using 'Yoga classes'...

Tim J

Thanks, Imperialist, for the websites. They have a lot of leads for me and I think I'll contact some of them.

And Kevin, I'm aware of Amity and have looked at their website. It looks like they have an entirely different approach, one I would be far more comfortable with.


I was once told that Christians are allowed to dominate ESL teaching posts in Tibet because it was discovered they do a better job of keeping out pro-Tibet activists than the authorities can. Hearsay from an informed friend I thought possibly true.


here's some more "English teachers" in China.

Michael Turton

Tim, that's some very scary stuff, but it's not like they behave much differently in the US. Or in Taiwan, where I live. When I was in Peace Corps in Kenya a trio of females from Campus Crusade for Christ nearly caused a riot by preaching in front of a mosque in northern Kenya. Violence was averted only at the last moment by a local Peace Corps volunteer who pulled the idiots out of the situation.

Perhaps one driver of the blind eye toward Christian missionaries is that the US Congress and advocacy groups in the US have complained about China's behavior toward missionaries.


Kevin S.

To see what some Christians are doing in China that has no relationship to proselytizing you may want to check out The Amity Foundation, www.amityfoundation.org. Amity is a Chinese non-profit with roots in the Chinese Christian Church. They work mostly in areas in rural development.

The comments to this entry are closed.



"China Rises" is written by Tom Lasseter, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

Send Tom a story suggestion.

Read Tom's stories at news.mcclatchy.com.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @TomLasseter

Follow Tom on Google Plus

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


    Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
              1 2
    3 4 5 6 7 8 9
    10 11 12 13 14 15 16
    17 18 19 20 21 22 23
    24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Photo Albums