One Chinese university has been directed to ban Christmas celebrations this year and another has punished a doctoral student for evangelizing on campus.
The repressive measures come amid wider restraints on religious practice at tertiary institutions as well as nationally across all segments of society.
The notice banning the celebration of Christmas at Shenyang Pharmaceutical University was issued by the powerful Communist Youth League on Dec. 11.
Although not meant to be a public document, it was circulated via the internet.
The notice demanded that all Christmas activities be halted in order to build Chinese cultural confidence and self-awareness.
This was necessary, the notice said, in order to resist Western religious culture spreading among the nation’s youth.
The notice complained that some young people were becoming “blindly excited” by foreign festivities.
Father Joseph, a priest-teacher in China, pointed out that there was an anti-Christmas campaign in 2014 at some Chinese universities.
But he noted that the latest warning was circulated privately to senior figures in university administrations because a public declaration of this type could be legally challenged.
Hong Kong Cable News recently noted that there had been an increasing number of official surveys of students’ religious beliefs.
A survey at the Tianjin University of Finance and Economy stated that it was being carried out in the spirit of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party held in October.
The Congress was seen as cementing tougher controls over religious institutions and practitioners.
Questions in the survey included whether there were any Christian missionaries on campus and if there were Christian gathering points.
Other invasive questioning related to which students and teachers had embraced Christianity.
Still, a priest in Tianjin who did not want to be named, said he thought some officials conducting such surveys did not take them seriously and were just carrying out directions from superiors.
The flurry of activity ahead of Christmas this year comes only two months after officials in China’s Eastern Jiangxi Province replaced religious images displayed by Christian families with portraits of the country’s leader, Xi Jinping.
And Shou Chenxiao, a PhD candidate at Xiamen University in eastern Fujian province, received a “serious warning” for evangelizing on the campus, according to a post on the @crossinchina community Facebook page.
The same Facebook page has shown video of crosses being removed from churches in China.