As coronavirus lockdowns are being lifted across China, businesses in some provinces can only reopen if they display government-supporting propaganda slogans.
by Han Sheng
For China’s communist regime, nothing stands in the way of advancing President Xi Jinping’s China Dream—a vision to achieve “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” he launched after taking the top office in 2013. Not even a deadly epidemic. As the country was in lockdown because of the coronavirus, students continued to be indoctrinated in their online classrooms, while millions of CCP members and public servants were forced further accumulate points on the infamous “Xi Study Strong Nation” app.
When lockdown restrictions were eased in March, businesses in the central province of Henan were slowly allowed to reopen. But on one condition: they had to declare their loyalty to the Communist Party and its leaders. In Luyi county, administered by the prefecture-level city of Zhoukou, all functioning shops and cafes were full of slogans promoting Xi Jinping Thought: “Do not forget the original intention”; “Keep the mission in mind”; “Ping’s language close to people”; “Create a civilized city, build a harmonious home,” and alike.
“No business is permitted to reopen without these slogans,” a noddle shop owner explained to Bitter Winter. “The government first asked me to hang five of them, and then five more. I had to pay from my pocket for them, but if I refused, I would be reprimanded and fined. It’s not easy to do business now.”
Owners of several nearby shops complained that they, too, had to display such slogans, or they would not be allowed to run their business. “We had no choice,” a flour shop owner said. “The government also demanded us to study what’s written on them.”
“The government forced all food shops in the county to buy posters promoting Xi Jinping Thought,” a supermarket owner said angrily. “Business is down, but we have to spend money on propaganda slogans. I’ll need several days to earn this money back.”
Businesses, residential communities, schools, places of worship, and other public venues in Henan have been mandated to display government-supporting slogans for a few years now.
“Last November, I was buying stuffed buns when officials from the Food and Drug Administration came to inspect the shop,” a resident from a county in Zhoukou city told Bitter Winter. “They confiscated the owner’s business license because he didn’t have five slogans promoting Xi Jinping Thought in the shop, as demanded. The owner told me later that he was given back his license only after he had displayed the posters.”
Since religious beliefs are regarded as a stumbling block to achieving the China Dream, businesses associated with religion are targeted especially hard. In November last year, the Religious Affairs Bureau in a locality of the northern province of Hebei issued a confidential document, requesting to investigate religious supply stores. Many were closed or repurposed as a result, while others had they signboards modified or replaced.
“If I don’t sell these portraits and statues, I would be forced to close the shop,” the owner explained to Bitter Winter. “Officials have inspected the store several times since I was prohibited from selling Buddhist merchandise. Buddhism and Taoism are now under the leadership and command of the Communist Party. Many temples have Party branches, and Buddhists are only allowed to chant while raising the national flag. If we disobey, we will be labeled as rioters and anti-government elements, and could be arrested.”
Another owner of a Buddhist supply store revealed that he, too, has to sell crafts now. “Words ‘Buddhist’ and ‘Immortal’ have been forcibly removed from my original signboard,” the devastated man lamented. “I had to replace it with a craft shop name at the cost of more than 3,000 RMB (about $ 420). I’ll have to sell a lot to get this amount.” He added that personnel from the Office of Industry and Commerce Management and the town government come to inspect the shop several times a day. “They claim that all this is aimed at ‘destroying feudal superstition.’ Many shops have been closed, and some owners have been detained.”