Chinese authorities offer the banal as an alternative to the sublime, as square dances and trinkets are all the Party can give to satisfy the hunger of citizens.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities seem to believe that people turn to religion because of emptiness in their lives. As an alternative to religion, the Party is promoting dances, tug-of-war games, and other amusements to fill the void many people feel, under the title of “Happy Sundays.”
At 10 a.m. on Sunday, November 11, 2018, Christians were holding worship services in Sizhuangping village in Henan Province. Outside the church, however, it was more noisy than usual. The local village committee had organized some villagers to beat gongs and play drums as part of a Happy Sunday activity.
“In the future, you can come here for entertainment on Sundays,” said the village’s Party secretary as he greeted people. “This is a ‘turf war’ against religious people!” As he declared his war for the souls (or at least the distraction) of the people, he handed out packs of cigarettes to each villager who was playing the drums, and fruit-flavored candy to the audience, as a reward for participating in the event.
Bitter Winter obtained a copy of a document issued in September 2018, titled Notice on the Implementation Opinions on Carrying Out “Happy Sunday” Themed Activities in Suiyang District. The document was jointly issued by 12 government departments in Suiyang district of Shangqiu city in Henan, including the Organization Department and the Propaganda Department of Party committee. The document calls for “coordination of various resources and mobilization of all forces” to carry out Happy Sunday activities, requiring that “The focus should be placed on rural areas (or communities) in which religious management tasks are heavy.” Activities should be held every Sunday morning and on major religious festivals in order to “occupy the ideological front in rural areas.” In other words, the Party hopes to use entertainment activities to compete with religion in vying for the masses.
Notice on the Implementation Opinions on Carrying Out “Happy Sunday” Themed Activities in Suiyang District
The activities of Happy Sunday are meant to be all-consuming. Each of the 12 government departments involved is responsible for its own projects, targeting different segments of society and creating a variety of activities to keep people away from religious practice.
The district’s Bureau of Culture and Tourism aims to strengthen the “artistic backbones” of citizens by carrying out various cultural performances, while the Education and Sports Bureau organizes patriotic education activities for teenagers, such as learning to recite from memory the “Core Socialist Values.” The Women’s Federation sponsors events for rural women to “lead them to obey the Party and follow the Party,” and the Political and Legal Affairs Committee runs anti-xie jiao propaganda activities. The Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee is entrusted with campaigns to fly the national flag and introduce the “Core Socialist Values” at religious venues to “elevate the national consciousness of religious believers, and make them aware that even if they believe in religion, they cannot betray the Party or the country.”
In addition, there are also “rural reading rooms,” “Party micro-lectures,” “countryside opera stages,” and “morality and culture lecture halls,” all of which promote the Party’s policies. The constant delivery of the Party’s values from every angle leaves people with no time to believe in God.
According to some media reports, Happy Sunday-themed activities started taking place last year. As Bitter Winter has previously reported, rural authorities across Henan have been implementing extensive anti-religion propaganda campaigns by inviting traditional Chinese opera troupes to perform outside religious venues or organizing “night school for peasants.” Local governments in other provinces are also organizing “alternative” Sunday events of Party propaganda or cultural activities near the places of worship to deter people from participating in religious activities.
As early as November 2014, the Xinjiang Daily website published an article entitled “With More Activities in Rural Areas, Religious Atmosphere Has Faded.” According to the article, Xinhe county authorities invested more than four million RMB (about $590,000) of funds for new construction and the expansion of 68 village-level cultural activity venues, 110 rural cultural compounds, and two newly-built cultural auditoriums. Besides, 176 sets of village loudspeakers that are used to spread CCP propaganda have been upgraded or retrofitted, and “meshrep square dance” activities (a traditional Uyghur gathering for poetry and dance) have been popularized in 117 villages throughout the county. In the countryside, various competitions and artistic performances have been established and carried out frequently. Authorities encourage the citizens to participate regularly in advancing the goal of “using modern culture to dilute the religious atmosphere.”
Reported by Gu Xi