China: Violent Anti-Religious Sinicization Campaign

Source: FSSPX News

The new law which will go into effect on September 1st - and which wants to make religious groups so many auxiliaries in the propagation of communism - has not yet appeared. Regions are already zealously waging a violent campaign for the sinicization of religions.

Crosses have been removed; members of the clergy arrested and placed in administrative detention for the simple fact of practicing their faith; places of worship forced to support the campaign of “sinicization” according to the ideology of President Xi Jinping. In recent weeks, China has seen a further escalation in the crackdown on religious activities, whether pastoral work or religious services.

Beginning on September 1, new rules will come into force which will intensify control of monasteries, churches, temples, mosques, and other religious venues, which will “prohibit ties with overseas organizations” and will require religious groups to impart “patriotic education to their members.”

Meanwhile, the government of Wenzhou, a prefecture-level city in southeastern Zhejiang province on the east coast of Chins, is preparing to resume the forced removal of crosses from the facades of churches, as they have done in the past. On August 3, a church in Dongqiao received notice that its cross would be removed.

Christian leaders responded by urging the faithful to pray against the removal. Meanwhile, a local clergyman, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, told ChinaAid that a  “’demonic wind’ might be rising again, with the effect of ‘removing crosses.”

An advance ruling last month by local officials in Shanxi City, Yongjia County, and Lucheng District ordered the removal of bronze plaques hung on doors and walls bearing the inscriptions “Jesus,” “Christ,” “Jehovah,” and “Emmanuel.”

Zhejiang is a province with a large Christian population and is one of the main targets of President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on religion and the sinicization of worship. Already in the past, between 2014 and 2016, external crosses were removed from more that 1,500 churches along  with other religious symbols from the facades.

At that time, a confidential Chinese government document claimed that the political significance of the campaign against the crosses reflected an “ideological struggle” between the communist regime and Christians. The anti-religion campaign has spread to other provinces, including Henan, with the removal of multiple crosses in 2018 and the destruction of other religious symbols, including those in people’s homes.

The rules on places of worship specify that “no organization or individual may use religious activity sites to conduct activities that endanger national security, disrupt social order [or] damage national interests.” Managers of religious venues must “love the motherland and support the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the socialist system.”

In addition, religious venues must also submit detailed activity plans for pre-approval, and have a duty to “educate religious citizens to love the motherland.” They must keep complete files on staff and members detailing their religious and social activities and any contact with foreign organizations or individuals.

Interviewed by Radio Free Asia, Chang Chia-lin, a professor at the Institute of Mainland China at Tamkang University in Taiwan, said the new regulatory framework represents the triumph of politics over spirituality.

“Politics trumps religion, so if you break these rules, they can take legal action against you.” He warns, “Religious venues will be forced to obey the government after September 1,... either the State Administration of Religious Affairs or the United Front Work Department.”