Xi Jinping’s personality cult is reaching unparalleled heights as his portraits replace religious symbols not only in places of worship but believers’ homes too.
by Wang Yong
In its drive to eradicate religions, China’s totalitarian regime relentlessly demolishes places of worship, converts temples, mosques, and churches into government-run centers, where religious symbols are replaced with portraits of the country’s president and propaganda materials.
While losing their places of worship, the religious are not allowed to practice their faith even in the privacy of their homes: Official raid their residences to remove crosses and images of saints and deities, ordering to replace them with the only divinity allowed to be worshiped in China –President Xi Jinping.
Moreover, people are threatened to have their government subsidies revoked if orders are not implemented. Initially introduced as a means to help the disadvantaged to maintain a basic annual income, the subsistence allowance for impoverished households is now used by the CCP as a tool to coerce believers into renouncing their faith. People find themselves in an impossible situation: to continue practicing their religion or lose the only source of income to sustain their livelihood.
“We received orders from higher-ups to remove crosses and religious couplets in the homes of believers, otherwise, we’ll revoke your allowance for impoverished households and other subsidies,” a local official intimidated a believer in her sixties at her home in Jiujiang, a city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, in August. The woman had no choice but to take off a poster with an image of the cross.
“Two days later, the village secretary came to my house to hang a portrait of Xi Jinping,” recalled the believer.
Similarly, another Christian in the area had a religious poster replaced with a portrait of Xi Jinping, painted in the style of the Mao Zedong era. The incident caused much stress for the woman who is in her seventies, and she had to be hospitalized.
According to a believer from Hengfeng county, administered by Jiangxi’s Shangrao city, in June, she was asked to hang a portrait of Xi Jinping in her house next to a poster with an image of the cross. During a subsequent inspection by local government officials, the believer was rebuked: “President Xi comes first. Take off the poster of the cross!”
From August to October, government officials visited numerous homes of believers in rural areas of Jiangxi Province, disguised as inspections related to the nationwide poverty alleviation campaign. Instead, they removed religious posters and symbols, replacing them with portraits of Xi Jinping.
“Since you are receiving support from Xi Jinping, you have to hang his portrait. He is number one in China. You have to do as required!” officials intimidated believers during visits.
“The cross represents our faith. It is a symbol of salvation and sacrifice,” a local Christian told Bitter Winter with anguish. “Believers are forced to put up portraits of Xi Jinping, to replace the Lord in our hearts with him. We don’t want to do this but don’t dare to disobey, fearing that the government may find this out, and we’ll get into trouble.”
A believer who depends on the subsistence allowance to sustain her livelihood said that she hadn’t been to her church for over a month. “The village secretary threatens to revoke our subsistence allowance if we continue to meet, demanding us to follow what the Party tells us to do. This is happening across the county; many believers are experiencing the same situation as us.”