Paul Marshall, Director of RFI’s South and Southeast Asia Action Team, was recently interviewed on NDT’s “China in Focus” program to discuss religious repression in China, as well as the secular media’s distorted view of religion more broadly.
When asked how human rights and the freedom of religious communities in China have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Marshall explained that while pandemic-related restrictions certainly hit the religious community hard, it is difficult to separate those outcomes from the “general background of repression over the last 10 to 15 years, particularly where Xi [Jinping] has been in power.” Citing the continued repression of the Falun Gong, Uighur Muslims, and Christians, as well as the continued attempts to suffocate Tibetan culture, he argued, “It’s hard to know whether COVID continued that trend, or if it was a blip. But certainly religious repression in China now is the worst it’s been since the 1970s.”
Marshall also spoke to the trend he sees among journalists’ views toward religion, saying:
Journalists tend to have a secular mindset. It needn’t be personal – they could be a believing Christian or Buddhist or whatever – but in their work, in their profession, religion isn’t really a part of it. There is a tendency to think that when something is apparently religious, we should look for the ‘real’ reason, and the real reason is underneath – it’s economic, or it’s political, or it’s just a power struggle. Now, you have be honest, a lot of things that are claimed to be ‘religious’ are power struggles… so that can happen. But it’s taken as a systematic reading that religion is an epiphenomenon; it just sits on top, and the real dynamics are underneath.
When asked about the cost imposed on society by of the media’s skewed viewpoint, Marshall said, “We don’t understand the world we live in. We live in a very religious world… and much of our media is missing it. So we’re getting a distorted picture of the world.”
Watch the full interview here: “Distorted World Picture Through Media’s Secular View: Paul Marshall.”