Ahead of a central government inspection, Luanchuan county officials replace the fundamental law of Christianity with communist propaganda in state-run churches.
by Han Sheng
The government of Luanchuan county, administered by Luoyang city in the central province of Henan, issued a notice in November, demanding to remove the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed from all its 17 state-run Protestant churches and meeting venues. The decision was made in preparation for the visit by the Central Inspection Team supervising religious work. Subsequently, Christian canons, doctrines, and other symbols in these churches were replaced with slogans promoting the core socialist values and traditional Chinese culture.
On November 12, officials from the county’s United Front Work Department (UFWD), led by its director, burst in a Three-Self church in Tantou town’s Dangcun village and ordered to remove the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed from the venue. The congregation members refused to comply. Four days later, about 20 police officers and village officials came to the church and tried to force their way inside, but were stopped by the believers who were guarding their place of worship.
An eyewitness told Bitter Winter that some elderly believers were blocking the front door, while others formed a human chain, trying to prevent the officials from entering the church.
“Defend the true way! Protect the Ten Commandments!” believers were shouting during the confrontation that lasted for hours. The police officers and village officials walked away that evening, but they didn’t give up their plans. They later threatened the person in charge of the church to shut down, even demolish the church unless she promised to replace the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed with slogans promoting China’s traditional culture.
“Resistance like this means opposition against the Communist Party. They threatened to round up congregation members, as they often do,” a church member told Bitter Winter.
To save the church, believers ended up succumbing to the demands: 17 slogans associated with traditional Chinese culture, including “loyalty (忠Zhōng),” “filial piety (孝xiào),” “benevolence (仁rén),” “righteousness (義 yì),” and “virtue (德 dé),” replaced the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed.
On November 14, UFWD and Luanchuan township officials showed up at a Three-Self church in Bailu village for “inspection of the church facilities” and forcibly removed the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed from the church walls.
The indignant believers demanded an explanation. “Demolition needs no reason. This is a central government policy,” responded the director of the UFWD.
That very day, intimidated by the authorities, members of Chengguan Three-Self Church, the largest church in Luanchuan county, were also forced to take down the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed.
A church in the county’s Shizimiao town was continuously harassed by the police and local officials for days. On November 13, 18 people, including the county’s UFWD director, secretary of Shizimiao county, and police officers, raided the church again. The director warned congregants that the first of the Ten Commandments – “You shall have no other gods before me” – cannot exist in particular, and all other religious signs and symbols must be removed. The officials replaced them with posters promoting the core socialist values.
President Xi Jinping seems to be following the steps of Adolph Hitler, who released his version of de-Judaized New Testament and later produced new Catechism that contained twelve instead of ten commandments, including, “Respect your Führer and master.” Similar to Nazi-ruled Germany, where swastika flags and portraits of Hitler were omnipresent, in totalitarian China, the national flag is replacing crosses in and outside places of worship, and religious symbols are swapped with pictures of President Xi – the only God allowed to be worshiped. Evoking the disturbing memories of the burning of the books labeled as “Jewish,” “un-German,” or against the Nazi party in 1933, earlier this month, “illegal books” and religious publications were burned outside a library in Zhenyuan county in China’s northwestern province of Gansu.