How does a frail 90-year-old with no official title cling to all-embracing political power? One way, as detailed by Ian Johnson, The Sun's Beijing correspondent, is to enforce
retirement at 70 in the private sector. Especially in the unauthorized religious sector.
The incident of goons rising in the capital city's largest Protestant church during service in front of a full congregation and unceremoniously dumping the pastor outside, because of the Rev. Yang Yudong's 73 years, is simply part of a larger campaign against Christian, Muslim, Taoist and Buddhist worship that is flourishing outside the state-created "patriotic" churches.
It is ominous but conducted without the passion and violence of the Great Cultural Revolution a generation ago. Where that reflected Mao Tse-tung's recklessness and passion for revolution, this stems from timidity and abhorrence of disorder.
The conservative forces ruling largely anonymously in the shadow of Deng Xiaoping's power and prestige must be absolutely terrified as his inevitable decline takes place, as he is hardly ever seen in public. This is part of their reaction.
But it is perfectly clear that the influence of Hong Kong, which comes under Chinese authority in 1997, and the imperative of private enterprise which is Deng Xiaoping's great achievement, must bring a diversity of ideas and expression. You cannot have a robust free enterprise without some freedom of speech.
This has been shown in South Korea and Taiwan. It must soon be faced in China and Singapore. What has happened is that China's uneven economic development has created not only rich and poor people but rich and poor regions. In the booming southern coastal areas benefiting from Hong Kong and Taiwan investment, little attention is paid to what Beijing decrees.
So it is not Pastor Yang who is the danger to China's future. The ruling bureaucrats who believe they can perpetuate ideological paralysis and relative economic freedom, on the premise that Deng Xiaoping will remain forever 90, are the menace. The people of whom they are most afraid are the solution. And there are millions of them.