A central government confidential document uncovers CCP’s plan to suppress and eliminate more than 30 churches, primarily from South Korea and the US.
by Zhou Hua
After the United Front Work Department and the Ministry of Public Security jointly adopted this year the Work Plan of the Special Operation to Investigate and Deal with Overseas Christian Infiltration According to Law, provincial governments around the country have been intensifying crackdowns on religious groups from abroad that are active in China.
Bitter Winter has accessed a central government document that lists more targeted churches and includes new localities in China where suppression activities should be implemented. Because the CCP is thoroughly investigating any leaks related to religious suppression, we are not providing images of the document, to preserve the safety of our sources.
As indicated in the document, the drive against religious groups is executed based on a series of directives given by President Xi Jinping, calling to put a stop to overseas forces “infiltrating China using religion.” “Never allow foreign religious forces to form a system within our country; never allow the formation of anti-Party and anti-government forces in the religious field,” the edict quotes President Xi.
According to the document, the main targets of suppression continue to be the nine Christian churches that are fairly active in China: the U.S.-based Young Disciples of Jesus, Cru (known as “Campus Crusade for Christ” until 2011), the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Bo’ai Church; and South Korea’s Sungrak Church (literally Sacred Music Church), Loving Heart Church (사랑 교회), Shixinhui, Canaan Church (가나안 교회), and Aiwei’er Church. Additionally, 24 other South Korean religious groups have been included in the list of targets; however, the copy of the document does not explicitly itemize them.
Since the beginning of last year, South Korean Christian churches have been subjected to a severe crackdown as part of the CCP’s special operation against foreign infiltration. This year’s campaign is targeted at preventing the closed-down churches from reopening; as stated in the document, “to investigate and punish whenever discovering any, and resolutely prevent [them] from gaining momentum.”
The special operation is divided into two phases: “fact-finding and investigation” and “crackdown and elimination.”
During the first phase, religious groups were investigated according to specific parameters: their background, organizational settings, and members; branches and activity venues in China; contacts, as well as the scale and scope of activities in China; information about affected domestic Christian churches, meeting venues, and believers; online evangelism; information about funds; “illegal” operations; and information about whether any of the 24 South Korean churches have resumed activities in China.
The crackdown and elimination phase was divided into two rounds. During the first, carried out in April and May, provincial-level administrative units were assigned to suppress specific religious groups. For example, the capital Beijing, the coastal metropolis of Tianjin, Shanghai, and the provinces of Liaoning and Jiangsu were required to focus on eliminating the Young Disciples of Jesus and the Cru. The provinces of Zhejiang, Hubei, and Hunan were ordered to concentrate on Aiwei’er Church, while Beijing and Tianjin, as well as the provinces of Heilongjiang, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hubei, Guangdong – the 24 newly-added South Korean-based churches.
During the second round, implemented from mid-June to the end of August, governments of some provinces, including Guangxi, Guizhou, and Yunnan were required to suppress and eliminate the Evangelical Lutheran Church; Zhejiang Province – Bo’ai Church; Beijing, Hebei, Liaoning, Jilin, Shanghai, Fujian, and Henan – Sungrak Church; provinces of Zhejiang, Shandong, Henan, and Guangdong – the Loving Heart Church; Jilin, Anhui, Chongqing, Sichuan and Yunnan – Shixinhui; and Fujian Province – Canaan Church.
The crackdown campaign is aimed at thoroughly eliminating foreign-related churches by:
- shutting down their activity venues, associations, branches, seminaries, religious training centers, and alike;
- forcing “infiltrators” to leave China within a specified period and enacting procedures to prohibit them from entering China again. For those that have already left, ensure that they don’t re-enter.
- confiscating publications and penalizing (or even pursuing criminal liability against) institutions or persons involved in publishing, distributing or printing materials related to foreign churches;
- educating and punishing Chinese believers affiliated with churches from abroad;
- revoking licenses of “cover-up companies” (established by religious groups or their members that provide financial support to religious groups) and dealing with their bank accounts;
- shutting down or blocking websites related to churches from abroad.
The document also places particular emphasis on confidentiality: “Documents concerning the special operation are prohibited from being uploaded on government websites. It is strictly prohibited to arrange work through WeChat groups or other non-classified channels.”