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Pray for Early Rain Covenant Church/Facebook

Members of Early Rain Covenant Church meet in a living room. (Pray for Early Rain Covenant Church/Facebook)

Harass, assault, repeat

Chinese police continue to detain and abuse members of Early Rain Covenant Church

This past Sunday in China, members of Chengdu’s Early Rain Covenant Church gathered inside living rooms for worship as they’ve done since the Chinese government shut down the church and arrested its leaders in December. But this week, police showed up at two homes, forcing everyone—children, the elderly, and pregnant women—into police buses and taking them away to the local station. Police detained a total of 44 people, the youngest of which was only 2 months old, according to Early Rain’s Feb. 25 update

Police placed 11 people in administrative detention and released the rest that day or early the next morning. Inside the station, police hit a man and his wife in the face and withheld food from some of the parishioners, according to the update. Early Rain Covenant Church has faced continued persecution since Dec. 9, when police detained more than 100 church members and leaders. Today, Pastor Wang Yi and his wife Jiang Rong, the church’s four elders, and eight others remain in prison, unable to meet with their lawyers. 

On the same day as the raids, police assaulted Wang’s 70-year-old mother as she withdrew money from a bank ATM. A police officer who had been tailing her tried to peek from the side as she typed in her PIN number. She asked him not to look, and in response, he insulted her and pulled her hair, according to an account by Wang’s niece.

When a bank security guard tried to stop him, the officer yelled, “I’m enforcing the law!” and the frightened guard walked away. The officer continued to kick the 70-year-old in the legs while a second officer grabbed her to prevent her from hitting back. 

When Wang’s mother later reported the abuse, the director of the local police station said he would deal with the officer. Meanwhile, he prohibited her from publicizing the officer’s name or ID number. She is currently caring for Wang’s 12-year-old son, Shuya, while his parents are in prison.

Xu Miaozhuang, the wife of imprisoned elder Matthew Bingsen Su, and her four children have also faced constant harassment since her husband’s detention began. Twice police have pressured their landlords to evict them, forcing them to find a new apartment. Police told Xu that her family members were illegal residents because her husband’s doctoral degree isn’t connected to his registered residence in Chengdu and their children don’t have hukou (household registration).

Their most recent eviction was on Feb. 22, when their landlord tore up the contract they had just signed. A photo from that night shows Xu hugging and comforting two of her sons as they cry about losing their home again. The landlord had earlier promised Xu that she would not comply with the police eviction request. 

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 Louis Lanzan/AP

Andrew Cuomo ( Louis Lanzan/AP)

Wombs for hire?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo kicks against the Catholic Church again, pushing to legalize surrogacy

A New York moment:

After signing a bill legalizing late-term abortion in January, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing another measure that evangelicals and Catholics in the state have long opposed: commercial surrogacy. New York is one of the few states that ban surrogacy. This is one issue where the United States is more socially liberal than Europe: Most countries there ban surrogacy, and the European Parliament has condemned the practice. Cuomo is proposing to legalize it through the euphemistically titled Child-Parent Security Act.

Commercial surrogacy is chiefly a priority for same-sex couples, while some bioethics and Christian groups have opposed it on the grounds that it exploits lower-income women. The Catholic Church considers surrogacy a form of human trafficking. In a typical surrogacy contract, a couple uses in vitro fertilization to create a baby and then pays a woman to carry it to term. After the surrogate mother gives birth, she gives the child to the couple.

One feature of the proposed bill is that the surrogate mother maintains all rights to decisions during the pregnancy—which would prevent situations such as the adoptive parents demanding an abortion even when a surrogate wants to keep the baby. But it also means the surrogate could abort at any point in the pregnancy.

Worth your time:

This obituary of Lenny Gilleo, the “Hairman of the Board,” who cut hair at the Federal Reserve Board. His business cards read, “My monetary policy is greatly affected by your growth rate.” His life story is fascinating too.

This week I learned:

Who Mary Lou Williams is. Wow. Happy Black History Month!

A court case you might not know about:

The founder of a Philippines-based news site called Rappler has been arrested, part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s pattern of targeting journalists. I relied on Rappler for background research in my investigation of the Iglesia ni Cristo, a Philippine group that has ties to Duterte and claims to be the only true Christian church.

Culture I am consuming:

Beautiful Boy, a film from last year that tells the true story of a young meth addict and his father’s flailing efforts to help him. It’s a story that rings so true of the helplessness I’ve seen in parents of addicts, especially those in the upper middle class who think they can quickly solve this problem just like they can solve most other problems in life.

The movie doesn’t go anywhere except to show the endless cycle of addiction. But it does acknowledge the emotional and psychological aspects of addiction that are often taboo to bring up. Speaking at a recovery meeting at one point in the film, Nic Sheff (played by Timothée Chalamet) talks about how drugs fill a “black hole” in him. Chalamet is the true highlight of the dark movie.

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at ebelz@wng.org

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Venice Beach, Calif. (Shutterstock)

Homelessness in whose backyard?

As a Los Angeles resident, I empathize with both sides of the NIMBY debate

Two weeks ago, WORLD Magazine published my story about the clash between NIMBYs and YIMBYs. A NIMBY—short for “Not in My Backyard”—is a person who opposes development projects such as homeless shelters in his neighborhood. A YIMBY—“Yes in My Backyard”—is a person who supports such local projects.

These terms might sound foreign to those who don’t live in high-density, housing-crunched, homeless-filled cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. But for us coastal California urbanites, they are controversial buzzwords, meant to label groups based on what (or who) they’re against. 

According to self-proclaimed YIMBYs, NIMBYs are, as one 40-year-old radiologist who owns a condo in LA described to me, “horrible, selfish, millionaire homeowners” who are responsible for jacking up housing costs and causing a spike in homelessness in the city. To so-called NIMBYs—who would never describe themselves by that label, given its negative connotations—YIMBYs are idealistic bleeding hearts who have no problem championing new developments in somebody else’s backyard. 

Obviously, neither group likes or trusts the other. Take, for example, the recent battle over a proposed permanent supportive housing project for the homeless in the Venice neighborhood. When YIMBYs piled into a neighborhood council meeting to voice their support for the project, some residents who opposed it suspected that the supporters were actually homeless people in need of those services themselves, and they accused nonprofits of busing them in to create the “illusion” of massive local support. I looked into those accusations, and though it’s true that some were indeed beneficiaries of homeless services, many supporters were Venice homeowners who desired a more inclusive neighborhood.

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