The so-called “four requirements” campaign demands religious venues in China to perform nationalist rituals, preach socialist morality under the watch of state inspectors.
Since June 2018, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has launched a new nationwide “four requirements” campaign to promote “sinicization” of religion. The campaign demands that religious communities adopt four specific practices:
- ritually raising the national flag, often while singing the national anthem;
- teaching believes about, and promoting, the Chinese Constitution, laws, and regulations;
- preaching and promoting the “Core Socialist Values”; and
- promoting “China’s excellent traditional culture.”
Critics say that religious faith is gradually becoming “Partified,” and religious venues have degenerated into places where the CCP promotes “love of country” and “love of Party.”
The Provincial Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee in southeaster coastal Guangdong province issues a document on September 17, 2018, entitled Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee’s Notice on Printing the Workplan on Implementation of “Four Requirements” at Religious Activity Venues in Guangdong Province. Under this order, each religious community must raise the national flag, under the inspection of the government’s religious affairs authority. The community must conduct “propaganda regarding the Constitution and laws and regulations at religious activity venues throughout the province.” Each venue must post a “rule of law” bulletin board and provide believers with booklets explaining the laws and regulations of religion. In addition, the new Regulations on Religious Affairs that came into effect on February 1 this year, must be framed and posted on the wall.
The document further demands that religious venues must put “core socialist values” into practice. When preaching, clergy must preach the content of these values; and must integrate them into the minds of believers, into collective religious activities, and into everyday life. Similarly, the religious community must earnestly study traditional Chinese culture.
As the “four requirements” policy is being implemented in provinces across China, the results are being felt by believers on the ground. For example, on September 15, the Religious Affairs Bureau of Hebei Province’s Pingquan city convened a meeting of persons in charge of the city’s Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. City authorities demanded that government-designated books teaching core socialist values and traditional culture be put on display at each church. Officials would then follow up with inspections, and punishments were expected for any church that refused to comply.
The manager of one church said that in less than two weeks, his church had changed entirely: In addition to the raising of the national flag, 19 works of fiction and several non-fiction books—including the Four Books and Five Classics (the authoritative books of Confucianism in China written before 300 BC) and the classic Chinese novels: Journey to the West, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, and Dream of the Red Chamber—were put on display in the prayer room. Besides, 16 texts, including promotional slogans from the CCP’s 19th National Congress, were posted on the walls. Also posted was the description and authority of the Religious Activity Venue Democratic Management Committee. (The Religious Activity Venue Democratic Management Committee is an organization that each religious venue must set up according to the new Regulations on Religious Affairs.)
This church manager lamented, “The church should be a place for worshipping God. But now, we have been forced to promote non-Christian books. Is that still serving God? In my opinion, it is a betrayal.”
The manager further reports that in recent years, at Christmas time, the government has brought non-Christians to the church to perform entertainment programs, making him feel like this once-sacred place of worship had turned into a playhouse.
Similar stories abound across China. In Henan Province in the Yellow River Valley, a provincial inspection team arrived at a government-controlled Catholic church in Yuzhou city on October 12 to conduct an inspection. The inspectors were outraged that the church’s cross had not yet been dismantled, and ordered officials from the city’s Religious Affairs Bureau to remove the cross immediately.
This Catholic church had already flown the Chinese flag since July, complying with the government’s order. Posted on the church’s walls are the Regulations on Religious Affairs, as well as slogans like “Party members are forbidden from being religious” and “Preaching to minors is prohibited.” Inside the church, various newspapers and magazines, laws and regulations, and the texts of Xi Jinping’s speeches are all on display for believers to read.
One church leader from Henan Province believes he knows what is behind the “four requirements” policy: “The government is doing this to indoctrinate and control church members, and gradually attain its goal of corroding the church.”
Reported by Lin Yijiang