Net Report: Some Chinese Christians in Henan and Anhui Provinces Forced to Renounce Their Religious Faith

“Exposed on the Internet: Local Authorities Forcing People in Henan and Anhui Provinces to Renounce Their Religious Faith”, the Voice of America (VOA) Chinese-language service reported on August 24.  According to the report, a Chinese-American Christian minister Liu Yi tweeted online that in parts of Henan Province some Christians DlaMgYAUcAAlqoPare required to renounce their Christian beliefs and to sign a document to that effect. The minister provided a copy of documents that (former?) believers are asked to sign.

The Chinese constitution states that Chinese have the right to believe in religion and to propagate atheism and Protestants and Catholics are organized into two “patriotic churches”.  All Protestant denominations were gathered together in one “patriotic church” and all Roman Catholics into a different “patriotic church”.  Some Protestants and Catholics did not accept the “patriotic churches” and formed underground or in the case of the Protestants “house churches”. 

While generally illegal since they are unauthorized sites of worship, in many areas the authorities chose to ignore them as long as they don’t grow too large — in some areas the limit would be a dozen people or so.  Enforcement of restriction has varied and the state character of the “patriotic churches” with for example, many of the bishops of the “patriotic catholic church” recognized by the Vatican and following Canon Law, following the religious guidelines from the Vatican and saying mass in Chinese in the Vatican II rite during which the priest asks for prayers both for the “leaders of our country” and for “our Pope”.

Enforcement of religious restrictions, for example prohibitions against the religious instruction of children and not allowing them to attend church services, has varied widely from place to place and from time to time. More recent press reports suggests that the repression of believers, especially those outside the “patriotic churches” has been increasing.

Communist Party members are not allowed to be believers in religion except for some rare practical exceptions in minority areas where the Party needs an in to a community. Enforcement has often varied widely from place to place.

It will be interesting to see if more comes of this. Is this a local innovation, now spreading?

I don’t know whether this is the proverbial “few isolated instances”.  But given news blackouts and intimidation common in China, one can suspect the worst.  Huang Qi‘s website 64tianwang.comhttp://www.64tianwang.com/  is instructive in that regard (some English language translations there too) even though Huang Qi, whom I met several times in Chengdu and still admire from afar,  has been imprisoned and the website has not been updated lately.  Even though the information there is not news anymore, it can be read as a timeless catalog of techniques local officials use to intimidate Chinese citizens.

Is this aimed only at Party members?  The VOA and reports on the Internet do not say so. If it is aimed at Party members, then this is not all that new.

 

[New detail: In fact according to an VOA report dated August 28, 2018, the Chinese Communist Party has in fact issued tougher rules forbidding Communist Party members from believing in religion. If they insist on not giving up their faith, they will be expelled from the Party.  Tougher Party anti-religion rule; faith renunciations likely for Party members 看最近美国之音报告,放弃基督声明很可能是对着党员而已。“新条例还规定:“对信仰宗教的党员,应当加强思想教育,经党组织帮助教育仍没有转变的,应当劝其退党;劝而不退的,予以除名”。https://www.voachinese.com/a/cpc-regulation-20180827/4546569.html ]  This is not a new rule (this is apparently a restatatement of an earlier rule that the Party leadership fears is not being followed) but enforcement is apparently become stricter. ]

The details below make me suspect that this is about wayward party members. Renunciations by party members would be logical for the party secretary to handle since Communist Party members must accept discipline beyond the responsibilities of the average citizen to obey the law. 

If all believers in a locality were forced to sign,  not only would they have no clear rule in enforcing a rule against nominal state policy on non-party members (the police/public security force might to that if it is a policy applied to all citizens).   And party secretaries would be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of declarations.  So they would likely not be doing them, that would be the job of the local police station.

The notes on the procedure for renunciation are:
1) personally signed with thumbprint
2) signatures of family members
3) signed with thumbprint of village or district party secretary
4) photo or video of signing taken, renunciation goes on file with the rural or urban township, and report made to superior authority.

 

See the translation of the renunciation of Christian belief copied below.


Declaration

I ___________ , gender ___, residing at ________________________

national ID card number ___________________ , in ____ (year) because of _________________ came to believe in Christianity and at ______________ regularly/occasionally take part in religious services.

I understood Christianity only superficially. I merely followed a popular trend when I became a believer. Now that I have attended study sessions, I understand it better. I have gotten a more comprehensive understanding of what religion and religious beliefs really are.

Now that I understand my spiritual needs, I have decided to no longer participate in Christian religious activities. I will no longer believe in Christianity.

I hereby make this declaration.

Person making the declaration: (signed) (thumbprint)

____. _______. 2018

Signatures of family members (thumbprints)

Village (or community) branch party secretary: (signature)

Notes:

1) personally signed with thumbprint
2) signatures of family members
3) signed with signature stamp of village or community party secretary
4) photo or video taken of declaration signing, renunciation goes on file with the rural or urban township, and a report is sent to higher authority.

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About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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