Party Propaganda Campaign on Great Harm Christianity Does to the Chinese National Security?

A Chinese Hui Muslim religious teacher now in exile in Australia just told me about a new attack on Christianity in China. He fears that attacks on all believers are a sign of something extreme like a new Cultural Revolution may not be far away. Reports are circulating on Twitter than the party organization of the Hebi Radio Administration Bureau in Hebi, Henan Province on April 22, 2019 held a special class for Party members on “The Great Harm that Christianity Does to Chinese National Security”.

The title of the class is the same as that of an article published in 2013 that has been circulating with no great frequency since then, if one can judge from the Chinese branch of the Internet where controversial articles are frequently deleted.

I wanted to check it out especially because sometimes Chinese exile media and exile websites spread unchecked rumors about Chinese communist deviltry. Some of their journalists trained as Xinhua journalists where they were expected to support the Party line and perhaps now are as insistent as supporting the anti-Party line based on their own bitter experience.

I checked the website of the Hebi Radio Administration Bureau but didn’t find anything there. The April 22 meeting mentioned in the Twitter posting isn’t listed on the website but there is something that might be connected — a notice on the start of the Hebi Radio Administration Bureau “Essay Contest on Supporting and Implementing Socialist Values” [ 鹤壁无线电管理局开展弘扬和践行社会主义核心价值观征文活动]

The Radio Free Asia Cantonese Service website April 26 article on the anti-Christianity party training class there entitled “New Measures to Suppress Christianity — Starting a Propaganda Campaign on “Party Control of Religion” [打压基督教再出新招 开展「党控教」宣传活动] notes that the website information release was quickly deleted after it started an uproar. Perhaps the local Party organization was being indiscreet about the start-up of a new, stronger anti-religion campaign.

Translating RFA Article: Christianity and Protestant Christianity

I translated the RFA article and copied it below. Translating the word “Christianity” is a bit difficult since the word widely translated as Christianity [jidujiao] and Christian [jidutu] means Protestant Christianity and Protestant while in Chinese useage, Catholics aren’t Christians just [tianzhujiaotu]. Ecumenism hasn’t taken hold in China and old attitudes are still baked into the language.

Chinese Protestants

The above-ground of various Protestant denominations were melded by the Party into one denomination, the nominally Party-controlled Three Selfs Christian Church [self governing, self-supporting and self-propagating] with varying degrees of compliance depending upon local leadership and locality . The Three Selfs idea precedes the Communists but they have used it as a mechanism of control. There are also many Protestant house churches that reject the Three Selfs organization, that vary in size (many are small, a dozen or so believers) and have been tolerated in some areas to some degree depending upon size.

In 2007, I visited a large congregation in Kunming that had many children attending services despite the Party’s prohibition of religious education for children. Actual practice varied considerably from place-to-place. Over the past decade, crackdowns on religious believers have grown harsher. Pastor Wang Yi of the Chengdu Early Rain congregation and some congregation members were arrested by the authorities in December 2018.

Chinese Catholics

The Roman Catholics are in a parallel situation with the above-ground nominally Party-controlled Patriotic Catholic Church and an underground church. Bishop Chen of Yibin told me in 2005 that at that time about 70 percent of the bishops of the Patriotic Catholic Church were recognized by both Beijing and Rome with the exception of the Bishop of Beijing whom the Vatican had excommunicated. When I visited official Patriotic Catholic Churches in China, mass was said in Chinese in the Vatican II rite and during mass prayers were said for both “our pope” and “our country’s leaders”. Church missals and bulletins often had pictures of the Pope. So Party control varied in practice from place-to-place as well.

More recently, the Vatican state (The Holy See) has moved towards establishing formal diplomatic relations with the PRC with the September 2018 signing of
Provisional Agreement on the nomination of Bishops which gives the Chinese government (meaning in China Party) a role in the selection of Roman Catholic bishops in China. Some see this as a dangerous proposal and a betrayal of the underground church. This proposal has been defended as a way to improve the situation of Chinese Catholics and in line with agreements the Vatican made with some European governments on the selection of bishops from a government-approved list. The Vatican-connected website and publication La Civiltà Cattolica just carried a review of Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s recent book “The Church in China” gives a Vatican perspective.

Translation of Radio Free Asia article: New Measures to Suppress Christianity — Starting a Propaganda Campaign on “Party Control of Religion” [ 打压基督教再出新招 开展「党控教」宣传活动 ]

Following up on their program of large-scale demolition of churches and crosses, and arrests of clergy, Mainland China authorities have initiated new measures to suppress the church in an attempt to bring Christianity under full control. Some local Party organizations conduct “anti-Christianity” classes for party members, and use apply standards for choosing party members and cadres to the selection of clergy. Overseas pastors rebuked the CCP’s slanders against Christianity and called on domestic and foreign believers to boycott the party’s plan to control religion. (Wu Yitong / Wen Yuqing reports)

In Henan Province, the Hebi Radio Administration Bureau released a message on Wednesday (24th), saying that since Christianity has grown in China in recent years, it had held a special class for Party members entitled “The Great Harm that Christianity Does to Chinese National Security” so that party members will “correctly understand Christianity” and to prevent ideological deviations and that the class had been successful.

After the news was released, some Christians objected, protesting that that such party classes violated the PRC Constitution and national policies. Given the uproar that it had caused, on the morning of Friday (April 26), the Hebi Radio Administration Bureau deleted the information from its website. Radio Free Asia called the Bureau repeatedly but got no answer.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia, the Chinese pastor Liu Wei criticized the Chinese Communist Party’s for its shameless and illegal slandering of the good name of Christianity. The real serious harm to the Chinese nation is the Chinese Communist Party itself, he said.

Liu Wei said, “No longer fearing public opinion, they have declared open war on Christianity. Every since Xi Jinping took office, the Chinese Communists have been very open about their opposition to Christianity. In internal Communist Party meetings, they use different tactics to slander Christianity. They are all based on lies. This is because Christianity has a most profound impact on China and has been very beneficial to China. It is in fact the Chinese Communist Party itself that has caused great harm to the Chinese nation.”

At the same time, there are signs that the Communist Party’s efforts to control Christianity are spreading across the entire country and are becoming more open.

In Fujian Province, it was recently revealed that Christian pastors are being selected according to the same standards used to select Communist Party members and government cadres. The two associations of the [Protestant] Christian Association of Fujian Province and the Three-Selfs Patriotic Church met on April 17, 2019. Zhang Jiyou, the vice president of the Christian Association of the province, announced that he would select clergy who support the party’s leadership, support the socialist system, observe discipline and obey the law, and uphold the “Three Selfs” principles [of Protestantism in China — self-governance, self-support, and self-propagation], rally believers around [the Party’s leadership], and follow the path of patriotism and the sinicization of Christianity.

Pastor Wang of Jiangxi Province told RFA that the authorities’ pressure on Christianity has been escalating and aims to bring Christianity under total Party control.

Pastor Wang said, “Clergy must support the Chinese Communist Party. Clergy must go to Renmin University for six months before returning home to start their assignments as pastors. To put it bluntly, they must obey the Communist Party if they are to become a clergyman. You do whatever the Communist Party tells you to do. That is the only way you can become a minister and the only way you can become a pastor. The pressure is very great and so a new Cultural Revolution can’t be very far off. The devil is determined not to fail.

Cheng Shiguang, an ethnic Taiwanese German pastor also believes that the Chinese Communist Party has created a huge moral vacuum since it came to power. The Chiinese Communist Party fears the enlightenment that Christianity brings to China’s citizens. He calls on Christians both in China and abroad to unite and refuse to compromise with the Chinese Communist Party.

Cheng Shiguang said, “The latest group of Chinese leaders are all liars. We absolutely reject all their slanders. In the past the Chinese Communists spared no effort to tear down churches and to arrest believers. Now they are carrying out this pernicious propaganda at the grass roots level. We can see that the Catholic Church in the past has tried to compromise with the Chinese Communists in the hope that this will be allowed to do more religious education. This approach is wrong. Those who believe in the truth cannot be among those who compromise with the authorities who want to bury religion altogether. I appeal to all the church in China and all the free churches abroad to come together to oppose these measures that are spreading falsehoods.”

As early as 2013, the Chinese government-associated publication “Global Vision” published an unsigned article “The Great Harm that Christianity Does to Chinese National Security” [ 基督教对中华民族安全的巨大危害性] . According to that article, Christian organizations supported by the state apparatuses of Western countries and “anti-China organizations based outside of Mainland China” are working together to promote the spread of [Protestant] Christianity in China. [Protestant] Christianity is growing faster than any other religion and the proportion of young people among believers continues to increase. Solutions proposed in the article include strengthening the state’s control over ideology and launching a campaign to criticize Christianity.

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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