Authorities throughout China adopt new measures demanding the clergy of state-run churches to promote the Party doctrine and indoctrinate believers.
by Li Mingxuan
Along with orders banning religious gatherings to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Chinese government also increased censorship of religious information on the internet, banning preaching and other services online. Along these measures, the CCP demands the clergy of state-run churches to study President Xi Jinping’s religion “sinicization” policy, integrate it into their sermons, and prove their loyalty to the government.
Patriotic indoctrination replaces Christian teachings
On April 13, the United Front Work Department of Huantai county in Zibo, a prefecture-level city in the eastern province of Shandong, issued an order calling religious groups and clergy members in the county to express their “love for the country and the Community Party” by writing essays. The campaign, entitled “Dream in the new era to strive together for a well-off society,” encourages people of faith to express their support to the government in texts no shorter than 2,000 Chinese characters, “keeping the core socialist values and religion ‘sinicization’ policy as guidance.”
The government has been applying Communist Party membership standards for state-run churches for the past few years, aiming to form a group of “red” clergy loyal to the regime.
On February 18, the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau of Shenyang, the capital of the northeastern province of Liaoning, issued a notice demanding the city’s religious groups to carry out events promoting Xi Jinping Thought. The document asks to advance the four requirements—a nationwide campaign launched in 2018 to promote the “sinicization” of religion—in places of worship by reading books on the president’s policies and writing essays about them. The acquired knowledge should be integrated into sermons to deepen believers’ understandings of the ‘sinicization’ policy.
On April 14, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the southeastern province of Fujian also issued a document aimed at advocating the four requirements. It demands that “posters promoting the core socialist values shall be posted in prominent positions in all church venues. Clergy members should highlight the core socialist values in their sermons, use important festivals, major events, and other occasions to interpret and publicize the core socialist values so that they are inserted into believers’ minds, their Sunday worship services, and daily lives.”
Churches turned into Party propaganda bases
The CCP continues to forcibly demolish crosses and “sinicize” the architectural style of churches. On April 11, crosses and all other religious elements were removed from two Three-Self churches in Qiu county in Handan, a prefecture-level city in the northern province of Hebei.
In mid-April, after a Three-Self church was rectified in the Zhen’an district of Liaoning’s Dandong city, slogans “Do not forget the original intention; keep the mission in mind” were displayed by the church entrance, and other propaganda materials and flags were posted on its outer walls. A church member commented that “the church now looks like a Party school.”
Following an inspection by the local Religious Affairs Bureau, the director of a Christian meeting venue in Dandong’s Zhenxing district had to spend 1,500 RMB (about $ 210) to display slogans promoting the core socialist values and fill bookshelves with books on Xi Jinping’s speeches and the traditional Chinese culture.
“The government says that believers are only allowed to go to the churches with permits for gatherings, but this is a trap,” a house church preacher from Shandong’s Jinan city told Bitter Winter. “When you enter such churches, you have to accept the government’s indoctrination of Chinese socialist values. Crosses are replaced with national flags, and you are told to love the Community Party. The situation is dire; it is the greatest challenge for Christians. We should hold on to the pure Christian belief.”