China Aid releases summary of 2016 persecution

China Aid

(Midland, Texas—Jan. 23, 2017) China Aid recently released a summary of religious persecution across in China in 2016, noting how Communist Party terminology shifted from guiding religions and socialism into mutual adaptation into a promoting the full-on Sinicization of religious beliefs.

According to the summary, 2016 brought a major change in the Communist Party’s approach to religious management. Under the administration of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, the role of the Party in regards to religion was to encourage it to mutually adapt with socialism. In April of last year, however, current Chinese president Xi Jinping convened National Religious Conference for the first time since 2001 and introduced the idea of “Sinicizing” religions; that is, forcing them to conform to the Chinese government’s agenda.

The report focuses on the implementation of the Revised Regulations on Religious Affairs, which was introduced as a draft in September. In preparation for its authorization, local government departments enacted various measures against house churches in order to coerce them into joining the state-run Three-Self Patriotic Movement, one of two official Christian organizations within the Communist Party.

The article also asserts that China responded to its own claims of so-called religious extremist activities by restricting hajj pilgrimages and inserting its values of “patriotism, peace, the Chinese dream, moderation, morality, and good behavior” into Islamic preaching. China justifies restrictions on Islam by it has been a victim of religious extremist-incited terrorist attacks; however, many human rights organizations believe the government construes false terrorist accusations and disproportionately limits the practice of Islam in order to suppress peaceful, innocent Muslims.

China Aid exposes abuses that religious devotees experience at the hands of the Chinese government in order to promote religious freedom and human rights.

“Sinicization” officially unveiled, “Party’s” shadow envelops

— 2016 Summary of the Observation of Religious Policies in Mainland China

China Aid Association Research Department

Observing China’s religious policy, there are generally three levels of dimensions: first, the national, high decision-making level, second, the central ministries and administrative levels of legal policy, and third, levels of local governments that actually implement the measures. Compared with previous years, or since the beginning of the 21st century, 2016 marked a major turning point in the religious policy of mainland China: the core program of China’s religious policy was formally changed from Jiang Zemin’s “active guidance of religion and socialist society to mutually adapt” to Xi Jinping’s “adhere to the direction of the religions’ Sinicization.” The keywords of religious policy formally changed from “socialism” to “Sinicization.”

The aforementioned three dimensions demonstrate this big turning point. For the first time in the 15 years since 2001, the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] again held the National Religious Conference in April during the first half of 2016 with the highest standards. After the United Front Work Department’s conference in September 2015, Xi Jinping once again emphasized that “religion should persistently follow the path of Sinicization,” which the central government has officially recognized as the core principle of administrating religion.

Second, the State Administration of Religious Affairs delivered the so-called Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Affairs (To Be Approved) in September, which is actually a brand-new edition, intending to implement the ideology that “religion should persistently follow the path of Sinicization” on a legislative level and paving the road for the legal management of religions.

Finally, in order to echo the new Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Affairs (To Be Approved), the direct and indirect religious departments in local governments all introduced a series of corresponding laws and regulations that will consolidate the guiding ideologies stipulated in the Regulations of Religious Affairs.

People who pay attention to religious conditions in China know that among the five officially recognized religions in mainland China, Taoism originated in China, and Buddhism [was assimilated] early on. As a result, China’s current Sinicization of religions mainly targets Christianity, Catholicism, and Islam. Regarding Islam, the Communist Party’s current policies are mostly concerned with “religious extremism” out of “separatism, religious extremism, and terrorism.” In other words, China’s Sinicization of Islam is currently in a defensive stage. That is, it opposes and guards against the use of “religious extremism,” behaving as if it were the core of the three [above-mentioned aspects]. The government’s main policy includes controlling the hajj and preventing scattered hajj activities, using “patriotism, peace, the Chinese dream, moderation, morality, and good behavior” and other similar subjects such as these in “Woerzi” explanations of [Quranic] scripture and preaching activities that proclaim Islam’s central ideology [Editor’s note: China Aid was not able to obtain an adequate English or Arabic translation of “Woerzi,” so it has been left transliterated]. Additionally, specific mosques must hang [China’s] national flag and so on.

Taking the third aspect of the policies into account, it is quite clear that Protestant house churches and the underground branches of Catholicism fall prey to the so-called “Sinicization of religions.” Protestant house churches get the most attention. Government policy refers to them as “private Christian meeting places.” Therefore, in 2016, a special rectification operation against house churches in China reached a new height.

According to the specific details of the enforced rectification, the so-called Sinicization of religions has three aspects. The first aspect is the modification of religious constructions; Zhejiang’s government continues to demolish crosses.

Second, religious sites and activities are not allowed to separate from the government system. The government has taken coercive measures to force house churches to join the official Three-Self Church. For instance, the Tongshan District of Xuzhou, Jiangsu initiated the “Four Combinations” movement to aid with the management of private Christian meeting places. The Yu’an District in Lu’an, Anhui targeted gathering places in its Work Plan Dedicated to Managing the Establishment of Private Christian Meeting Places in the Development Zone According to the Law, emphasizing:

  1. Registering churches
  2. Merging [house churches into government churches] 
  3. Transitioning [house churches into government churches]
  4. Ban all churches [that refuse to cooperate with these aspects] as punishment 

In addition, the government bans or arrests the house church pastors who refuse to accept bribes. Third, the government compels religious organizations to introduce symbols and activities of the CCP to religious sites. The most notable example is the “Five Entries and Five Transformations” movement promoted in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province.

Besides, as we all know, the most prominent “Chinese characteristic” is the leadership of the CCP. The guiding ideology decreed in 2016 that “religion must persistently follow the path to Sinicization” actually alludes to the subtext that “all religions have to surrender to the authority and leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.” During the Cultural Revolution, the Red Queen, Jiang Qing, proudly announced, “We have already sent religion to history museums” [Editor’s note: Mao Zedong’s wife, Jiang Qing, was called the “Red Queen” due to her various crimes during the Cultural Revolution].

On one hand, Xi Jinping’s government has proved incapable of handling political, economic, and social affairs.

On the other hand, we witnessed the endangerment of religious freedom in China after Xi Jinping put forward the guiding ideology that “religion must persistently follow the path to Sinicization” in 2016. The new version of the Regulations on Religious Affairs empowers the local government to use coercive measures to suppress civil religions. Bearing in mind what happened in 2016, we have good reasons to worry that the major religions in China, especially house churches and underground Catholic and Protestant churches, will suffer the most unprecedented suppression under the name of the “transforming into the Communist Party of China” since the Cultural Revolution.

In 2017, China Aid Association will strengthen ties with the international community and, as always, pay close attention to the conditions of religious freedom and legislative equality in China. China Aid Association will cherish the confidence and faith from our domestic and international colleagues God endowed us with and use all resources to aid the [Christian] brothers and sisters who suffer for noble causes. We will expand our network in Chinese legislation and Bible classes, preparing China for a constitutional era of love and righteousness.

(Note: This article represents the opinions of China Aid Association.)

ChinaAid Media Team
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