Chinese Communists ‘Hope to Erase’ Christianity: Report
Last August 25, several faithful gathered around one of the largest churches in China’s Shanxi province to watch it dissolve into dust. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities had planted explosives inside Beihan Catholic Church, bringing its 131-foot-tall bell tower crashing to the ground. In a bout of déjà vu, the 10-year-old church had been built on the site of another church, which the CCP demolished in 1990.
Many Chinese religious systems believe in reincarnation — but in Communist-controlled China, a cycle of destruction repeats itself for Christians, according to a comprehensive, 63-page report from ChinaAid.
The Chinese Communist Party has continued to destroy churches, arrest and abuse Christians, forcibly “disappear” clergy, prevent believers from expressing their faith online, and attempt to coerce Christians into proclaiming Marxist principles from the pulpit in place of the Holy Bible. The report’s “partial list of persecution cases in 2022,” broken down by province, takes up 20 pages.
“The CCP implemented various strategies against Christians in 2022. By using the new measures against religious content online and the infamous zero-COVID policy, authorities limited or eliminated Christian gatherings,” recounted ChinaAid President Bob Fu. “By using charges of ‘fraud,’ the Chinese government financially suffocated the house church movement.”
The report details the forcible disappearance of 10 clergy from Hebei prince’s Xuanhua diocese — including two Roman Catholic bishops — and another 10 priests in the province’s Baoding diocese. Those allowed to remain in the country may be forced out of their ministry by government interference. Fengwo Township Religion Bureau showed up at a church last January to tell parishioners the bureau deemed their pastor, Huang Yizi, unfit to preach sermons, because of his arrest record — for refusing government orders to remove public crosses.
The government has told Christians not to evangelize, preach, print, proselytize, or in some cases pray — especially in the name of Jesus. While preventing many registered churches from worshiping in person, allegedly to stop the spread of COVID-19, Jiangsu province also made it a crime “to illegally preach online, give sermons, interpret scriptures, chant,” etc. Police visited churches that persevered. “Village cadres came to me yesterday and asked me not to preach religion on WeChat. Now we are not even allowed to say the word Jesus in our prayers, or ‘trust in the Savior,’” one Chinese citizen told her U.S.-based family.
The government also tried to prohibit Christians from carrying out their scripturally mandated duty to pray for those in authority. “Our church has received orders from government officials. Now when we pray in WeChat groups, we’re not allowed to say, ‘We pray for those in power,’ let alone pray for President Xi Jinping by name or ask God to make him repent. These are all forbidden now. Some of us used to pray for China’s top government leaders, but that’s not allowed anymore,” another believer told a family member who had emigrated. “We don’t know if we can still pray together in WeChat groups after this March.”
To stifle the growth of house churches, the government has treated tithing and other standard Christian economic activities as a form of “fraud.” In July, police arrested Pastor Qin Sifeng and coworker Su Minjun of Beijing Lampstand Church for “illegal business activities” when it printed hymns for the church to sing. Officials have repeatedly postponed their trial, originally scheduled for last November, effectively imprisoning them indefinitely. Others received swift, crushing punishment. Officers arrested a believing couple, Chang Yuchun and Li Chenhui, in December 2021 for printing Christian books; last May, a court sentenced them to seven years in prison and a fine of nearly $37,000 (U.S.).
The report notes the heart of the persecution campaign: the determination to follow through with what the CCP called the “Sinicization of Religion” at the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th national Congress last October 16. The party demands churches teach Communist principles and revise religious dogma in light of socialism.
“Their goal is not only to curate a ‘socialist-friendly’ church; they hope to erase it,” said Fu. “Previously, they asked for sole allegiance to the Communist Party, but since the 20th National Party Congress, they shifted their emphasis to aligning with Xi Jinping.”
To this end, government officials insist the church cede the education of children to the secular, socialist state. Last May, CCP officials reminded college graduates and students of their official policy: “No one may use religion to carry out activities that obstruct the national education system.” They have effected this policy by shutting down church-operated schools, including the Wenzhou Bowen Bible School and Wenzhou Bible School in Zhejiang province last August, or fining those who hold religious education conferences nearly $21,000 (U.S.). Fined people who rented out facilities to a church school and illegally held a human rights lawyer who represented Christians under house arrest.
These measures likely violate the wording of the Chinese constitution, which states Chinese citizens “enjoy freedom of religious belief” and the right to attend “normal” services — but the document, written by Communists, does not define normal services.
The problem of religious persecution is as old as Marxism itself. Karl Marx considered religion the opiate of the masses. Yet suppression of Christians appears to have intensified as China has gained economic and military strength over the last two decades. The U.S. State Department has classified the People’s Republic of China as a “Country of Particular Concern” since 1999.
The CCP faces credible and consistent charges of committing “deaths in custody and that the government tortured, physically abused, arrested, disappeared, detained, sentenced to prison, subjected to forced labor and forced indoctrination in CCP ideology, and harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices,” noted the State Department’s most recent report on Chinese religious freedom, published last June.
Despite their oppression, Chinese Christians remain resilient. Last February 20, “Christian activist Zhou Jinxia held up a sign to preach the gospel to Xi Jinping,” knowing it would result in arrest.
China Aid’s new report coincides with an emboldened China that has increasingly begun saber-rattling, provocatively sending spy craft to hover over the U.S. mainland. While the CCP has begun “brazenly pushing the limits, to see how far they can go,” said the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn. “President Biden’s administration has consistently demonstrated weakness, showing a willingness to act against adversaries like the Chinese Communist Party only after the public outcry was so deafening that they could not ignore it,” Rep. Green told The Daily Signal.
This overseas aggression has bled into the CCP’s treatment of Christians, as officials have attempted to reach beyond its own shores to harass or kidnap ethnic Chinese living in the United States. They also sanctioned Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
“The international community needs to know about these trends and developments” of Beijing’s persecution of Christians “as China continues to rise on the global stage,” said Fu. Unless Western Christians stand up for their brethren, Chinese Christians believe the cycle of destruction will continue.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.