Monks attend a celebration event for the birthday of the Buddhist goddess Guanyin at Nanshan Temple in Sanya, Hainan Province, China, in 2017. (Stringer/Reuters) The government makes churches and mosques glorify the Communist Party above all else.
Against a backdrop of pandemic restrictions along with genocide allegations in Xinjiang, the year 2020 saw Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members vigorously preparing the populace to participate in the party’s centenary celebrations. To project the image of a unified China, government authorities pressured religious heads across the nation to evangelize about the glories of the CCP’s ideology and way of life. Churches were told to display banners with slogans of political ideology, perform the national anthem before singing Christian hymns, and in general demonstrate their loyalty to the CCP above all, and only secondarily to the church.
This process is a snapshot of how religious freedom is dying in China, with authorities subordinating inner faith in God to ostentatious public displays of faith in the party. The CCP has issued rules covering every aspect of religious life, from the formation of groups to daily activities involving worship and prayer, all of which need to be approved by the communist government. For example, on February 18, 2020, the Shenyang Religious Affairs Bureau, in Liaoning Province, issued a notice to religious groups in the area specifically stressing the need to advocate Xi Jinping’s policies. On April 14, 2020, the Protestant-affiliated Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) in Fujian Province responded to pressure by calling for posters promoting core socialist values to be installed in all church venues. Clergy members were told to implant these values in the minds of believers through sermons and Sunday worship services, in order to inculcate a devotion to CCP principles in their daily lives. If the CCP encounters any form of resistance or refusal to help spread government propaganda, local authorities threaten to shut down the churches. So great is the fear that in a press release on October 1, 2020, the anniversary day of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Qingwen, senior pastor in Jinghe New City, Shaanxi Province, called on
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