China’s Christian minority has been coming under renewed pressure as the communist regime authorities apply coercive measures to have them renounce their beliefs.
On Aug. 23, Chinese-American clergyman Francis Liu wrote on Twitter that Chinese Christians in multiple cities, including Anyang of Henan Province and Ma’anshan of Anhui Province, were being told to sign statements saying that they disavowed Christianity.
A typical statement, pre-prepared by the authorities for stubborn believers to sign, reads: “My beliefs were the result of blindly following a trend. … I arrived at a more sober understanding of my spiritual needs. From now on I have decided to stop participating in Christian religious activities, and I no longer believe in Christianity.”
A Christian who attends the “Urban Church” in central China’s Henan Province told New York-based NTD Television that he had seen the renunciation statement, which was distributed by local Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials.
The village head handed the statement to a church leader. The official asked him to pass on the statement to other Christians to sign. The church leader said he would neither spread the statement nor sign it himself. He later showed the statement to each worker in the unit. At our church, a Christians said his village head and branch CCP secretary also gave him such statements and expected him to sign, but he refused.”
Francius Liu said that there were similar occurrences last year in Jiangxi Province, targeting Christians when they applied for government benefits.
“Local Christians and priests told me that in Jiangxi Province, officials asked Christians who qualified for welfare or those who were taking government benefits to abandon their faith,” Liu told NTD Television. “They weren’t targeting all Christians last year.”
Now, in Henan and Anhui provinces, the CCP’s drive to have believers renounce Christianity has extended to the Christian community in general.
So far, NTD Television has only received news of the campaign in these two provinces. It is difficult to tell if the drive was the prerogative of local officials, or arranged by higher authorities as a trial run in places home to many Christians.
However, some Christians in Henan told NTD Television that since the updated Regulation on Religious Affairs took effect in February this year, the authorities have tightened surveillance and restricted the activities of major religions, while interfering with their teachings and services.
“Surveillance cameras will be installed in the church, and the church will fly the [communist] red flag,” said a Henan Christian surnamed Chen. “The church will also have to host propaganda from the CCP branch. Priests will have to pass assessment by the authorities, and persons under the age of 18 are to be prohibited from entering.”
“During the worship, we will be required to sing patriotic songs. We don’t dislike our country, but they don’t let us worship God. They will force us to sing these songs before the service. The point of this is to attack the essence of our faith.”
In some Chinese cities, including those in Henan, CCP authorities have removed large numbers of crosses and iconography with the excuse of renovating illegal buildings.
In the CCP-controlled Three-Self Patriotic churches, the number of worshippers is limited, and clergy must preach the Party’s “socialist core values” with the object of “sincizing” religion.
Francis Liu said: “Being an atheist Party, the CCP doesn’t trust any religion. It realizes it has no way to completely control religious faith using its own ideology. So-called sincized religion really means that it is being controlled by the Communist Party. It means the religion and its believers must be subservient to the Party and its rule.”
The CCP has suppressed Chinese religion and other spiritual faiths ever since coming to power in 1949. In the 1950s, millions of religious followers were executed or imprisoned, and the traditional teachings of Confucius, Buddha, and Lao Zi were severely denigrated during the decade-long Cultural Revolution. The CCP has infiltrated temples and churches with its agents to twist the teachings to fit its atheist ideological mold. In 1999, the CCP began a violent campaign against practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline, many of whom have been killed for refusing to give up their beliefs.