The Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics (7)

August 16, 2022
Ho Chi Minh and Zhou Enlai, Beijing, 1955

These articles are intended to present a very particular reality, which plays a determining role in the life of the Catholics in China, either by conscripting them under the banner of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or by casting them back into the catacombs. The article has been published on the website of the Foreign Missions of Paris. This presentation will allow the uninformed reader to understand what are the stakes of the agreement between China and the Vatican, which should be renewed for the second time in October.

40 years after the founding of the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, it is possible to decipher the purpose and the objectives that the CCP leaders had set themselves and hoped to achieve through its creation.

The Beginnings of the New Regime

The Premises

To “protect” and control the Churches and religions of China, the leaders have constantly endeavored to make them docile instruments in the hands of the party and the government, by creating, at the top of each denomination, at the national level, a central organization.

This organization was to have guiding functions, of a political nature, and to report directly to the government office in charge of religious affairs, headed by a member of the party, present in turn in the office of Prime Minister Zhou Enlai.

This policy of the enslavement of churches and religions allows one to see the inexorable harshness of a technically flawless plan. Its execution required years of pressure and repression. Its results remain fragile, as are all things built on coercion and violence.

At the national level, government action with regard to the Catholic Church is therefore part of an overall policy aimed at the various religious confessions. It takes place in a general context, the main lines of which we recall here.

For Muslims: “on May 11, 1953, 111 Muslim delegates belonging to ten different ethnic minorities, officially created the National Islamic Association of China in Beijing with Mr. Buthan as president.”

For Buddhists: “From May 30 to June 3, 1953, 123 leading Buddhists gathered in Beijing to officially found the Buddhist Association of China, with four honorary presidents: the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Ngoerhtehni, Hsu Yun, Chakankoken; a president, Yuan Yin, and a general secretary, Zhao Puchu.”

The Protestants held their first National Conference of Protestants in China in Beijing, from July 20 to August 6, 1954. 232 representatives of the various Protestant organizations took part in it and elected a National Committee composed of 150 members under the direction of Wu Yaozong, leader of the Protestant Movement of three autonomies.

The Taoist Association of China was officially established on April 12, 1957. Yueh Chungtai, abbot of a Taoist monastery in Mukden (now Shenyang) and member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was elected president. To run the association, a central committee of 61 people was elected.

Attempts to Control the Church

Efforts to subjugate the Catholic Church came to nothing for a long time. In fact, chronologically, the creation of the control body over the Church was the last to be constituted. The action of the government, coming up against strong resistance, made them pay a very high price: it made hundreds of people disappear and resorted to terror against the others.