China’s state-sanctioned churches to celebrate Communist Party’s centennial

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during the opening session of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2017. | REUTERS/Aly Song

In the run-up to the Chinese Communist Party’s planned celebrations to mark 100 years of its existence on July 1, churches affiliated with the government are organizing and participating in events that seek to glorify the single-party rule that has persecuted religious communities.

Last month, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association in Jiangbei district of Chongqing city held an event called “Grateful and Praise for the CCP Pilgrimage to Pay Respect to St. Mary,” according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

People from the association visited churches in that city and held a “Grateful and Praise for the CCP Blessing Mass” at one of the worship gatherings, the nonprofit reported.

“The Church should organically unify ‘Love Party, Love Country, and Love Socialism’ and faith; boldly speak about politics, while speaking about faith in accordance with law,” Ding Yang, the priest who officiated the mass, was quoted as saying.

“God has chosen the Chinese Communist Party,” Liu Yuanlong, the vice president of the CPCA and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference’s National Committee, wrote in a congratulatory note, according to Apple Daily, a Hong Kong pro-democracy tabloid-style newspaper. Apple Daily is being forced to shut down after CCP authorities froze its assets last week under Beijing’s national security law, an adviser to jailed owner Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday.

Liu quoted Proverbs 11:14, which states, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers,” to show his public support for the CCP. Liu also encouraged church members to “listen” and to “follow” the party led by Xi Jinping.

The association’s head, Bishop John Fang of the Shandong Diocese, said in a statement that his organization would continue to “deepen the Sinicization of the Catholic religion.”

Ahead of the CCP’s centennial celebration, Chinese authorities have tightened security across the country, especially in the capital city of Beijing.

The Epoch Times quoted a Chinese citizen as saying that China has been turned into a “prison.”

On March 20, 18 departments, including the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Central Propaganda Department and the Central Committee of Political and Legal Affairs, jointly launched a three-and-a-half-month special campaign to suppress “illegal social organizations.”

State-run media Xinhua reported that over 500 “illegal social organizations” were identified and placed under investigation.

Under the direction of President Xi, CCP officials are enforcing strict controls on religion, according to a report by China Aid. The nonprofit advocacy group also said that Christians in both official, state-run churches and house churches were ordered to fly the Chinese flag and sing patriotic songs during worship services.

Open Doors USA, which monitors persecution in over 60 countries, estimates that there are about 97 million Christians in China, a large percentage of whom worship in what China considers to be “illegal” and unregistered underground home churches.

Authorities in China are also continuing their crackdown on Christianity by removing Bible Apps and Christian WeChat public accounts as new highly restrictive administrative measures on religious staff went into effect this year.

Open Doors USA’s World Watch List ranks China as the 17th-worst country in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians. In addition, the organization notes that all churches are perceived as a threat if they become too large, too political or invite foreign guests.

The U.S. State Department has labeled China as a “country of particular concern” for “continuing to engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

Christians are not the only religious minority to face persecution at the hands of the CCP.

Estimates suggest that as many as 1 million to 3 million Uyghur and other ethnic Muslims have been subject to internment camps in the western Xinjiang province, where they are taught to be secular citizens who fall in line with the CCP. In January, the U.S. State Department recognized China's treatment of Uyghurs as a "genocide." 

China has also reportedly violated the rights of Falun Gong practitioners and Tibetan Buddhists. 

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