There’s a new ditty being spread by China’s Christians: “Fly the national flag, put up propaganda slogans. The church belongs to the Party, not to the Lord.”
Ever since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013, Christian churches in China have been “dressed up” by the Communist Party and their appearance is quietly changing as they become more “sinicized.”
In 2018, a number of churches in several parts of Henan Province, including the cities of Xinzheng, Shangqiu and Yongcheng, were demolished. Under intimidation from the local government, the remaining places of worship that belong to the state-sanctioned Three-Self Church were forced to fly the national flag and post propaganda slogans while all of the portraits of Jesus and plaques of biblical scriptures were removed from the walls, replaced with various rules and regulations prescribed by the Communist Party of China, or CCP, government.
Oubeisha Church, located in Yanji town, under the jurisdiction of Yongcheng city, also fell victim to this new practice. The Communist Party’s propaganda slogans are posted throughout the church; a poster with pictures of the “Twenty-four Filial Exemplars” can also be found there.
According to believers, the entire church has changed completely from the inside out, so much so that it is no longer recognizable as a church, thanks to government officials.
“Believers only have God, and not the Party, in their hearts. How is that acceptable? In the future, people can only fit the Communist Party in their hearts. In all matters, they must obey the Party and follow the Party,” said a town government official.
The head of a village in Shanggao county of Yichun city, in Jiangxi, a southeast province, directly posted concise instructions to “obey the party and follow the party” on the most visible spot on the building of a local church. According to believers, the church’s cross was dismantled long ago. The exterior walls of the church have been turned into a wall of CCP propaganda. From the outside, it looks more like a government building.
Churches in several parts of the northwestern province of Shaanxi encountered the same fate. In July, under compulsion from the local United Front Work Department, a large church in a city in southern Shaanxi, which can accommodate more than 2,000 believers, was forced to post slogans of CCP policies.
In the church hall, there used to be a painting of Jesus with sheep on which the church’s rules and regulations were printed, but it has been replaced with a propaganda board for “studying the spirit of Xi Jinping at the 4th Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.”
Meanwhile, officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau also replaced a schematic introduction to the church’s Gospel Hall with a poster of the new Regulations on Religious Affairs.
In the face of the CCP authorities’ increasingly apparent erosion of religious belief, one Three-Self church pastor said: “Xi Jinping is implementing the ‘sinicization’ of Christianity. To put it bluntly, it is the ‘CCP-ization’ of Christianity, so that Christianity and Catholicism in China will both be surnamed ‘Communist Party.’”