Amid pandemic restrictions coupled with allegations of genocide in Xinjiang, the year 2020 saw members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) vigorously prepare the population to participate in the party’s centenary celebrations.
To project the image of a unified China, government authorities pressured religious leaders across the country to evangelize the glories of the CCP’s ideology and way of life. Churches have been ordered to display banners with slogans of political ideology, perform the national anthem before singing Christian hymns, and generally show their loyalty to the CCP first and foremost and only secondarily to the church. .
This process is an example of how religious freedom is dying out in China, with authorities subordinating inner faith in God to publicly manifest faith in the party. The CCP has issued rules covering all aspects of religious life, from group formation to daily activities involving worship and prayer, all of which must be approved by the Communist government.
For example, on February 18, 2020, the Religious Affairs Bureau in Shenyang, Liaoning Province issued a notice to religious groups in the region specifically stressing the need to uphold Xi Jinping’s policies. On April 14, 2020, the Protestant-affiliated Tri-Authority Patriotic Movement of Fujian Province responded to the pressure by demanding that posters promoting core socialist values be put up in all church venues.
Members of the clergy were tasked with instilling these values in the minds of believers through sermons and Sunday services in order to instill devotion to the principles of the CCP in their daily lives. If the CCP encounters any form of resistance or refusal to help spread government propaganda, local authorities threaten to shut down churches.
The fear is so great that in a press release on October 1, 2020, the anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Qingwen, senior pastor of Jinghe New Town, Shaanxi Province, called on six Christian churches to join. to patriotic teachings. of the CCP and promote the synization of Christianity.
And they’re not just Christians. This phenomenon of constant indoctrination and blatant submission to communist norms extends to all religious groups. In Kaifeng, Henan Province, there are about 100 practicing Jews among 1,000 people of Jewish descent. Having no access to the Torah, they often use Christian Bibles, also limited and controlled in China. Given the government’s clear stance on those who do not abide by the CCP’s rules, they are constantly worried about being banned from forced labor and physical suffering.
On May 29, 2020, the Hainan Buddhist Association went further and held a training session for Buddhist monks from across the province, teaching them how to implement religious sinization, adopt Xi Jinping’s lectures, and include them. religious rules of the CCP in their daily life. .
Likewise, between August 10 and 16, 2020, the Labor Department of the United Front of Gansu Province (UFWD) organized the first training cycle for the main Islamic clerics of Gansu Province and the heads of the committees of Gansu. administration of temples in Gansu province at the Lanzhou Islamic Institute.
The UFWD said the training was provided for Synchronizing Islam and Promoting CCP Principles, Xi Jinping’s Reflection on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and Political History, Culture. and the legacy of the CCP through the prism of patriotic education.
According to the state-run China National Daily News, in a report from October 13, 2020, the Islamic Association of Hubei Province even published a plan to implement the five-year plan for Hubei Province by joining synicization. of Islam in China between 2018 and 2022., which included strengthening Xi Jinping’s political identity, disseminating his works, emphasizing his religious regulations, and guiding imams for they interpret the scriptures in accordance with traditional Chinese culture and the party’s core values.
Although this process of extending the reach of the CCP has dragged on for more than a year, on November 1, 2020, China began its seventh national census. As part of the data collection, China has not hesitated to spy on its own citizens and extract unauthorized information. Investigators were tasked with noting religious materials and symbols in each house to verify whether the house was being used as a private religious venue or as a group meeting place. Residents were urged to stop holding meetings of any kind.
In Yantai City, Shandong Province, local police even asked census officials to report household items with pictures if they were associated with the Falun Gong Buddhist movement. In Heze City, Shandong Province, police ordered investigators to report anyone who refused to enter their home, which could indicate it was being used to host religious meetings.
Moreover, China closely follows not only minority religious groups, but foreigners as well. Churches attended by foreigners come under scrutiny through passport verification, registration and prevention so that Chinese citizens do not attend these services.
The Hainan Province Public Security Department has offered rewards of up to $ 15,300 for tips to foreigners who have engaged in religious activities without permission. Authorities have even installed surveillance cameras in classrooms to monitor religious education. Chinese internet censors are removing the words Christ, Jesus, Christianity and the Bible from social media posts, replacing them with abbreviations. In many cases, Christians themselves substitute these words in the text to avoid online censors.
Chinese authorities also continue to restrict the printing and distribution of the Bible, Quran, and other religious texts – essentially anything that is not a CCP document. According to Meipian.com, security agencies are responsible for inspecting publishing sites, farmers’ markets and urban-rural junctions for illegal religious publications and training courses. Some employers, at the request of local authorities, have gone so far as to fire religious minorities, such as Falun Gong practitioners, citing their current or past religious affiliations as the reason for the dismissal.
Sometimes the CCP goes beyond religious restrictions to outright ban. Party members and those belonging to the armed forces must be atheists and are prohibited from following or expressing religious beliefs or practices. The country’s national law, in fact, prohibits organizations and minors from participating in most religious or educational activities. Cases of death in custody, torture, physical abuse, arrest, detention, sentencing, and forced indoctrination under CCP ideology are not uncommon in China.
In addition, according to the 2019-2024 Synchronization Campaign, members of the clergy of all religions have been required to participate in political indoctrination exercises organized by the CCP, and their religious services will be strictly monitored, any interference or adverse reach. of any group being taken very seriously. So, in September 2020, the deputy head of UFWD and the director general of the State Administration for Religious Affairs declared that foreign influence and control had been completely eliminated from Christianity in China.
This type of synization was already taking place between January and June 2020, when the authorities closed religious sites, in particular those belonging to the Islamic, Christian, Buddhist and Taoist religions, under the pretext of restrictions by the Covid-19. Likewise, many public displays of religious symbols have also been destroyed across China.
Despite these periodic clashes, Chinese efforts to sinize different religious groups remain steadfast and continue as part of a system-wide effort to make the CCP and its value system ubiquitous in the lives of every citizen. Article 5 of the New CPC Policies emphasizes the adherence of religious organizations to the leadership of the CCP and its constitution, laws, regulations, ordinances, policies and vision of socialism. These new rules also affirm the need for religious organizations to spread the CCP’s narrative and support its pursuit of total socialism consistent with Chinese characteristics.
The Chinese are still free to believe in their private lives what they wish, but they can only preach and worship publicly under the orders of the CCP. As Chinese religious citizens struggle to focus on moral living, after 100 years, the CCP’s only goals remain domination, control, self-perpetuation, and self-glorification.
* Jianli Yang is founder and president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China and author of “For Us, the Living: A Journey to Shine the Light on Truth”).