Churches have been ordered to get approvals to celebrate Christmas from multiple state institutions and people are forbidden from having Christmas decorations.
As Christmas approaches, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities continue to intensify their control over religious activities. Churches that belong to the state-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement have been ordered to apply for permits from varying levels of government institutions, including the Religious Affairs Bureau if they want to celebrate Christmas in their places of worship.
A few days ago, the person in charge of a Three-Self church in Houling township, in Henan Province’s Yongcheng city in central China, complained to our reporter: “Just to celebrate Christmas, the church needs to obtain stamps of approval from several departments; otherwise, we cannot observe it.”
According to sources, unlike in previous years, this church began all the necessary preparations for Christmas as early as November. The person in charge of the church explained: “This year, the government is demanding that in order to observe Christmas, churches must obtain approval from the Religious Affairs Bureau, so we applied early on.”
However, the application process has not been smooth. At present, the church is still waiting for the results. The person in charge said helplessly: “After village officials approved the application, we faced obstruction when trying to get an approval stamp from the township government; they were very unwilling to do so. Afterward, through a great deal of effort and connections, the application has been approved. But we still need to get over the final hurdle, which is the municipal Religious Affairs Bureau: only after we receive our application with the Bureau’s stamp on it, this means that we have their consent, and this goal can be deemed as accomplished.”
This new policy to control celebration of Christmas has caused believers to feel both angry and helpless. One of them said bluntly: “Just to observe Christmas, church representatives have to run around getting stamps. This is the government’s means of controlling and persecuting religious belief.”
It is learned that this church also submitted applications to various government departments in November. The person in charge of the church said: “For the time being, the church is stable in its appearance. Next, the government will take measures to control the church; they won’t ease up. Now, to observe Christmas is so difficult; and an application must be submitted to multiple levels (of government). Stamps need to be obtained from the village committee, the township government, and the municipal Religious Affairs Bureau. It is unclear what kind of suppression we will encounter in the future.”
He also revealed that in the past, churches did not need to apply for permission to observe Christmas. Besides, several churches would celebrate Christmas together, sometimes, for several days in a row. For this year’s Christmas, even if approval is received from the authorities, churches still face all kinds of restrictions. For example, Christmas activities can only be held on December 25, and minors are prohibited from participating in celebrations religious performances.
This year, apart from intensifying their control over Protestant Three-Self churches holding Christmas events, the CCP authorities are also continuing to launch various campaigns to “boycott Christmas” and “reject foreign religions.” Public security departments across China have issued bans, “prohibiting all Christmas-related decorations and activities.” On December 15, the Urban Management Bureau of Hebei Province’s Langfang city issued an “enforcement” notice, stipulating that people are not allowed to place Christmas trees, lights or other related items along the streets and strictly prohibiting stores from holding promotional events during Christmas season.
Pastor Liu Yi, the founder of the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness in San Francisco, the United States, said when speaking on the matter: “It can be summed up in one sentence: Get rid of all Christmas-related things and prohibit the people from celebrating Christmas.”
Reported by Jiang Tao