Visitors are told that “the Chinese Communist Party has been inextricably linked to Christianity from the day of its birth.”
by Zhang Chunhua
The 100th anniversary day of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), July 1, approaches, and religions are also supposed to show their enthusiasm and celebrate, despite the fact that the Party has arrested, tortured, and killed countless believers.
Shanghai is where the CCP was founded on July 1, 1921, and it is also where the government-controlled Protestant Three-Self Church has unveiled on June 25, in preparation for the anniversary, an exhibition titled “One Heart, One Virtue, One Path: Chinese Christianity Loves the Party, the Country, and Socialism Theme Exhibition” (同心同德 同向同行——中国基督教爱党爱国爱社会主义主题展). (In fact, the exhibition was opened to selected visitors even before the June 25 ceremony).
The Three-Self Church is known for willingly serving as a relay for CCP propaganda, but the Shanghai exhibition is extreme and embarrassing even for its own believers. Signs proclaim that “Without the Communist Party, there would be no New China, no socialism with Chinese characteristics, and it would be impossible to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” These slogans are ubiquitous in public buildings, but this is an exhibition allegedly organized by a Christian church.
The exhibition tells the story of Christians who helped the first Communists, with some becoming members of the CCP. However, what the exhibition does not tell is that many of these Christians were later expelled from the Party and even executed, while the CCP clarified that only atheists can become Party members. One such hero of the exhibition is the “mysterious red priest,” Dong Jianwu, who was a pastor of the Episcopal Church. Dong became an active member of the CCP, worked as a spy for the Party, and ran a kindergarten in Shanghai where he took care of the three young sons Chairman Mao had left in the city when he moved to the Jinggang Mountain.
What visitors are not told is that all this good work for the Party did not save Dong from being expelled from the CCP and arrested in 1955. His life was saved repeatedly by his friendship with pro-CCP American journalist Edgar Snow, but he was persecuted again during the Cultural Revolution and died in 1970, both as a result of the injuries and because he was denied proper medical treatment for his stomach cancer. But visitors are only told that “the advanced members of the Christian community have always been of one mind and one direction with the Party, leaving a beautiful footprint and bearing wonderful witness.”
Pastor Xiu Xiaohong, chairman of the Central Committee of the Three-Self Church, inaugurated the exhibition, and told the audience that ,“History fully proves that without the CCP, there is no religious policy that is supported by both believers and non-believers, there is no social environment for the healthy development of religion in China, and there is no good situation where all religions in China can live in harmony.” Xiu, who presides over the largest Protestant denomination in China, added that, “The Party and the government’s philosophy of governing for the people fully reflect the superiority of the Socialist system. By 2035, we will have basically achieved the ambitious goal of a modernized Socialist country. All this would be absolutely impossible to achieve without the great Chinese Communist Party.”
The aim of the Christian Church in China, Xiu said, is to “contribute to the great goal of building a modern Socialist country,” and work and pray for “a bright and more glorious tomorrow in the next century under the leadership of the CCP.” “This special exhibition on the centennial of the founding of the Party, he concluded, will once again inspire us to love the Party, love the country, and love Socialism.”
Xu also stated that “the Chinese Communist Party has been inextricably linked to Christianity from the day of its birth.” “I hope he will not be punished—one believer who attended the grand opening half-jokingly told Bitter Winter—since normally in China you can surely say that Christianity is Communist, but you cannot say that the Chinese Communist Party, which is fiercely atheistic, is Christian.”