Several government efforts are underway to severely curtain religious belief in Linfen, a bustling city in China’s Shanxi Province.
Earlier this year, the Chinese Communist Party blew up the Golden Lampstand Church in Shanxi’s Linfen city. The church had more than 50,000 members and cost nearly 2.6 million USD to build.
The church and its members had faced constant persecution by the authorities from the beginning. Pastors were slapped with prison sentences, and in 2009, the construction of the church was attacked as well.
More recently, a special research group comprised of several Linfen government officials met to discuss the sinicization of religion in Linfen. The city’s People’s Political Consultative Conference, or CPPCC in short, conducted a symposium on religious work in which combating religious beliefs was listed as a top priority.
The meeting was held on July 24 and saw attendance from Municipal CPPCC Chairman, United Front Work Department Minister, and others. Later, the group visited the churches and temples in the city’s Yaodu district to inspect if the revised Regulations on Religious Affairs were being implemented properly or not.
Ever since the current Chinese President, Xi Jinping, took office in 2013, one of his avowed goals has been to promote the sinicization of religion and in particular, Christianity. As per international news reports, one of the ways in which authorities work towards this policy is by localizing the architecture. All religious institutions must bear the Chinese flag, for example.
Other ways in which the CCP controls Christianity in the country is by keeping the appointments of religious heads under its purview. The leaders of the Protestant Three-Self Church and Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, both state-sanctioned movements, are appointed by the CCP and often removed arbitrarily if they are found violating its rules even by an inch.
The authorities have also shut down more than a dozen of Justification by Faith churches in China, leaving tens of thousands without a sacred place to congregate.
Scores of believers have been arrested, and house churches shut down under the dubious charge of “using a xie jiao” in Linfen as well as China.
Analysts have pointed out that Linfen is a microcosm of China itself and whatever happens in the city will reverberate across the country even more severely. It is believed that the CCP regards religious issues at its top priority and intends to increase its momentum of curtailing belief in the near future.
Reported by Feng Gang