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China’s deplorable religious policies

| Thursday, November 19, 2015

It was with great sadness that I learned last week Notre Dame will allow select mainland Chinese factories to manufacture Notre Dame licensed goods, on a pilot basis, so long as these factories meet certain rigorous labor standards. I realize this decision may be but a prelude to a more ominous one on whether to link up with China’s Zhejiang University (more about that if the day comes). But these labor standards, met or not, are only one issue when it comes to China. The fact is, there’s much more at play here as to who we are as a University and as a community.

China’s unelected government, for example, blocks its citizens’ access to Facebook, Twitter, as well as to the Bloomberg and New York Times websites (among others). Activist Liu Xiaobo, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, is serving an 11-year jail term for subversion. And of course, whether it’s building artificial islands in the South China Sea, selling arms to Iran or enabling North Korea, many Chinese policies run directly counter to U.S. objectives.

But perhaps most troubling for Notre Dame should be that China does not allow true freedom of religion. Specifically, Catholics can only legally worship through the state-sponsored Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association’s network of approved churches and risk arrest, or worse, if they’re caught at any of China’s many underground real Catholic churches. As the Wall Street Journal, also censored by China, reported in 2014, “Authorities launch periodic crackdowns involving church demolitions, beatings and imprisonment of worshipers or priests at underground churches.” What’s more, the so-called “Patriotic” Church doesn’t recognize the primacy of the Pope and the Chinese government (not Rome) appoints Chinese bishops.

We can’t change China, as that change has to come from within. But how can the world’s leading Catholic university, one that also prizes human rights and open debate, let products bearing its name be made in a country that forbids the true practice of that faith, limits free speech and jails peaceful dissidents?

I thought Notre Dame was about more than cutting costs or finding a more efficient supply chain. Maybe not.

Sean King

MBA class of 1999

Nov. 4

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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