Religious intolerance rears it head in Chinese official circles
China demolishes hundreds of churches and confiscates Bibles during a crackdown on Christianity – Under President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, believers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically
Attacks most virulent in central China’s Henan province, the country’s Christian heartland
Locals in Henan stated concerns of a move by the atheist ruling Community Party to control Christianity
Residents have been asked to replace posters of the cross and Jesus Christ with portraits of President Xi Jinping
Experts say the government is waging the most severe systematic suppression of the religion since 1982
Chinese leaders have ‘always been suspicious of the political threat’ that Christianity poses to the govt
Seen as a wide-reaching new effort by the officially atheist ruling Communist Party to dictate, and in some cases, displace the practice of ALL religious faith in the country
In the Muslim-majority In Xinjiang region, millions of ethnic Uighurs face repression and torture as authorities claimed to rule out potential separatist movements
Detainees held in ‘political re-education camps’, allegedly were physically and mentally tortured and as punishment, some forced to eat pork and drink alcohol
Chinese sate media, Tuesday, announced that all religious institutions across the country are now required to fly the national flag, in a move to assimilate religions into the socialist society
Shading constitutional proviso on religious freedom: Chinese national flag flies over a church near the city of Pingdingshan in Henan province. Locals in Henan are now concerned by moves from the atheist ruling Community Party to control Christianity. Central Henan province is the country’s Christian heartland
Concerns have been raised over China’s apparent recent crackdown on Christianity as the ruling Community party continues to intensify its control over religious freedom in the country.
Churches reportedly, were raided and demolished, Bibles and holy books were confiscated and new laws were established to monitor religious activities in the country’s province of Henan, which has one of the largest Christian populations in China.
Under President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, believers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country touts religious revival.
The crackdown on Christianity allegedly, is part of a broader push by President Xi to ‘Sinicize’ all the nation’s religions by infusing them with ‘Chinese characteristics’ such as loyalty to the Communist Party.
Over the last several months, local governments across the country have shut down hundreds of private Christian ‘house churches’.
A statement last week from 47 affected churches in the capital Beijing alone, said they had faced ‘unprecedented’ harassment since February.
They ordered that the cross, a painting of the Last Supper and Bible verse calligraphy be taken down. And they demanded that all services stop until each person along with the church itself was registered with the government, said Guo, who gave his last name only from fear of retribution.
Guo and his neighbors in central Henan suddenly found themselves on the front lines of a wide reaching new effort by the officially atheist ruling Communist Party to dictate, and in some cases, displace the practice of religious faith in the country.
Putting the crackdown in perspective, Xi Lian, a scholar of Christianity in China at Duke University, says ‘Chinese leaders have always been suspicious of the political challenge or threat that Christianity poses to the Communist regime,’
|’Under [president] Xi, this fear of Western infiltration has intensified and gained a prominence that we haven’t seen for a long time,’ he added.
Officials once largely tolerated the unregistered Protestant house churches that sprang up independent of the official Christian Council, clamping down on some while allowing others to grow. But this year they have taken a tougher approach that relies partly on ‘thought reform’ – a phrase for political indoctrination.
Ten months ago, Christian residents of a rural township in south-east Jiangxi province were persuaded to replace posters of the cross and Jesus Christ inside their homes with portraits of Xi, a local official said.
‘Through our thought reform, they’ve voluntarily done it,’ Qi Yan, a member of the township party committee reportedly, told the AP by phone.
‘The move is aimed at Christian families in poverty, and we educated them to believe in science and not in superstition, making them believe in the party.’
‘Xi is a closet Maoist – he is very anxious about thought control,’ said Willy Lam, a Chinese politics expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. ‘He definitely does not want people to be faithful members of the church, because then people would profess their allegiance to the church rather than to the party, or more exactly, to Xi himself.’
Various state and local officials declined repeated requests to comment. But in 2016, Xi explicitly warned against the perceived foreign threats tied to faith, telling a religion conference: ‘We must resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means.’
Those who resist pay the price.
After Jin Mingri, the prominent pastor of a Zion Church in Beijing, refused local authorities’ request to install surveillance cameras inside his house church, local law enforcement targeted his 1,500-person congregation for harassment and intimidation.
Hundreds of people were individually questioned, Jin said.
The congregants faced veiled threats, and many were asked to sign a pledge promising to leave Zion, which the government agents called illegal, politically incorrect and a cult.
Some members of the congregation lost their jobs or were evicted from rented apartments because police intimidated their bosses and landlords.
In Zhengzhou, Henan’s capital, all that is left of one house church is shattered glass, tangled wires and torn hymn books, strewn among the rubble of a knocked-down wall. Pegged to another wall is a single wooden cross, still intact.
The church inside a commercial building had served about 100 believers for years. In late January, nearly 60 officials from the local religion department and police station appeared without warning. Armed with electric saws, they demolished the church, confiscated Bibles and computers and held a handful of young worshipers, including a 14-year-old girl, at a police station for more than 10 hours.
Churches which had previously already registered with the state have not been spared greater restrictions. In Henan province these churches now bear notices at their entrances stating that minors and party members were not allowed inside.
A banner above one church door exhorted members to ‘implement the basic direction of the party’s religious work.’
Another church erected a Chinese flag at the foot of its steps.
Painting of the ‘Last Supper’ is seen next to posters quoting China’s constitution on religious freedom in a house church which became a victim of the religious clamp down by authorities, near the city of Nanyang in central China’s Henan province.
Inside, Guo has refused to remove the cross and other decorations, telling authorities they are within his private property.
Among them, pinned to a wall in the nave, is a bright blue poster that quotes China’s constitutional promise of religious freedom.
Elsewhere in China, religious practices and activities remain strictly controlled.
In Xinjiang, a Muslim-majority region in the country’s far west, millions of ethnic Uighurs face repression and torture as authorities claimed to rule out potential separatist movements.
Former of being physically and mentally tortured and as punishment, and being forced to eat pork and drink alcohol all of which are banned in the Muslim faith.
The policy appears to reflect increasingly harsh restrictions on the Himalayan region’s traditional Buddhist culture, largely aimed at reducing the influence of the region’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India.
Chinese state media,Xinhua on Tuesday announced that all religious institutions across the country are now required to fly the national flag, in a move to assimilate religions into the socialist society.
It was explained that the rule is necessary to strengthen awareness of respect for the flag, a symbol of the country’s embrace of communism in 1949, and preserve the flag’s dignity. The practice can enhance the public’s national consciousness and civic awareness, Xinhua claimed.