An internal document from one of the municipalities in this northern province reveals a score-based motivational system for government and Communist Party personnel involved in the crackdown on churches. Top scores are given for the extinction of underground Catholics.
Issued in late-September, the document, entitled the Measures on the Evaluation of Ethnic and Religious Work, quantifies the crackdown on religious belief as a score, which is used as a benchmark for assessing the performance of local party and government institutions. A total of 65 activities are listed, and one to five points are given for implementing them, depending on the level of success or importance. The accrued points may be deducted for inadequately handling anti-religious activities or the growth of religious communities.
As per the document, the crackdown on the underground Catholic Church remains the top priority. “Whenever an underground Catholic activity is found, it must be suppressed,” and all venues for such activities must be shut down, stipulates the document.
Officials are awarded up to five points for each underground priest who is “transformed through education” with the help of indoctrination classes conducted by specially-trained personnel that follow “transformation” guidelines.
The document also demands to ascertain the number and identities of underground priests. Officials are required to “seek out, meet with, and speak to” underground priests, and “become closely familiar with their activities and tendencies.”
Points are awarded for an in-depth investigation into the leaders and core congregation members of underground Catholic churches, including but not limited to the gathering of information on their family and employment status. The number of underground Catholics and the exact locations of gathering venues are required to be ascertained, with details such as floor space area and the names of property owners that rent out to churches.
The Measures were adopted after the signing of the China-Vatican provisional agreement. Ever since, Bitter Winter has been receiving reports on the increasing persecution of underground Catholics in the province, despite the hopes that the deal would bring some reprieve for those faithful to the Pope.
Next to Catholics, the churches that had been set up by South Korean Christians are identified as a priority target in the campaign against religion in Hebei. The document calls to vigorously “investigate and punish the South Korean Christian infiltrating organizations” and to eliminate private meeting venues launched by them.
Protestant house churches are given special attention in the document as well. The churches are divided into three categories: those that are willing to join the government-controlled Three-Self Church after “education” and “pressure;” those that refuse to join the state-controlled Patriotic Movement but agree to be regulated by the government; and churches that wish to remain completely autonomous. The eradication of a church from the third category is worth four points.
One more of the 65 anti-religious activities, for which points are awarded after successful implementation, is the supervision of online content through a comprehensive investigation of religious websites as well as personal profiles on popular social media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat. The “complete eradication of online evangelism by foreign forces” and prompt blocking and deletion of “harmful” information are mentioned as some of the aims in this category. One point is given for each successful investigation.
Activities against religions are also implemented in schools and universities as well. Teachers and students from abroad are prohibited from preaching or promoting religions, and local religious students are not allowed to engage new believers from among classmates. The dissemination of religious materials is also banned.
Reported by Feng Gang
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