The government wants to ensure that all people of faith in China accept its ideological leadership. Those who disobey are punished.
by Jiang Tao
On June 22, the United States Department of State designated four of China’s media entities operating in the US as “foreign missions,” not news outlets. China Central Television, China News Service, the People’s Daily, and the Global Times were added to the list of five other media organizations designated as “foreign missions” in February.
“These nine entities all meet the definition of a foreign mission under the Foreign Missions Act, which is to say that they are ‘substantially owned or effectively controlled’ by a foreign government,” a press release by the State Department reads. “In this case, they are effectively controlled by the government of the People’s Republic of China.”
President Xi Jinping commented in one of his speeches that “Media outlets run by the Party and the state are publicity fronts for the Party and the state and must have the Party as their surname. All the work by the Party news and public opinion media must manifest the Party’s will, reflect the Party’s stance, maintain the authority of the Party’s Central Committee, and safeguard the Party’s unity, love, support, and serve the Party.”
In response to the leader’s call, all state-run places of worship are required to subscribe to CCP’s mouthpieces, like the People’s Daily, the Central Committee’s official newspaper. All such publications must be displayed noticeably in venues for congregation members to read.
Last December, some state-run places of worship in Shenhou, a town administered by Yuzhou city in the central province of Henan, received a document titled the Notice on Party Papers and Journals Entering Religious Venues in 2020. “Party papers and journals are mouthpieces of the Party and people, and key tools of public opinions that propagate the Party’s theories, guidelines, and policies,” the document states. It demands “all religious venues to promote Party papers and journals” and subscribe to the People’s Daily, Qiushi Journal, and other publications to meet a set quota.
Similar orders were distributed to places of worship in other provinces.
The director of a state-run church in Zhuji, a county-level city in the eastern province of Zhejiang, told Bitter Winter that members of a provincial inspection team demanded to know last October if his church had copies of the People’s Daily and books about Xi Jinping. “They took photos of existing books and periodicals,” the director said. To protect the church from being shut down, the congregation posted propaganda posters inside and now frequently hide Bibles and other religious publications ahead of inspections.
According to a report by the United Front Work Department, published on its website on December 2, many religious activity venues in the southeastern province of Jiangxi set up reading rooms “to embrace Party papers and journals.”
Some local governments in Zhejiang Province introduced CCP publications in religious venues already in 2016. In a government report from 2014, mosques in four villages of Jiujianlou township, administered by Usu city in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, “proactively subscribed to Party papers and journals.” A local imam is quoted as saying that mosques gave publications to believers to study “poverty alleviation policies and how to get rich to lead a well-off life as early as possible.”
How truthful are such government reports? Clergy members from Henan’s Yuzhou city complained about such forced subscriptions, saying that the content of Party publications “violates their belief and resembles the feeling they have when singing red patriotic songs.” Others don’t like that each venue is required to spend nearly 1,800 RMB (about $ 250) for the subscription of at least three publications every year.
“No one reads them, but we have to do what the government tells us to evade persecution,” a director of a state-run religious venue said. He added that officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau often inspect how the congregation studies the government’s policies, taking photos, which they submit to their superiors.