(Baoding City, Hebei – January 10, 2024) The Chinese government views Christmas as a form of cultural and religious invasion, local authorities aim to use “the suppression of Christmas” as a way to express patriotism. In Baoding City, Hebei Province, children are prohibited from participating in Christmas vigil activities. The Baoding authorities have taken a series of measures, including traffic blockades and store closures, and students are forbidden from bringing Christmas-related items back to school dormitories.
Baoding is a prefecture-level city not far from the Chinese capital, Beijing, and it is also a place with a large population of traditional Catholics. The Baoding Catholic Diocese has approximately 100,000 parishioners. The current bishop of the diocese is Francis An Shuxin. The government has kept the diocese’s former legitimate bishop, James Su Zhimin, in long-term detention since 1997 and he is still missing to this day.
According to reports from AsiaNews, on December 24, Christmas Eve (commonly referred to as “Silent Night” by the people in China), after 4:00 PM local time, the police implemented special traffic control measures in downtown Baoding. Vehicles were not allowed to enter the streets leading to churches, and public transportation passing through the area was instructed to take alternative routes. All stores around churches were ordered to close and prohibited from conducting business.
The local government took extensive measures as if there was an oncoming major threat. Police officers were deployed in large numbers around churches, with police cars stationed near the church buildings. Police officers were wearing riot gear, and there were even deployments of law enforcement inside the churches. The atmosphere was filled with tension and unease, turning Christmas Eve into a night that was not peaceful.
The police blocked parents with children from entering the churches, citing the reason that there were too many people inside the building therefore posing a safety hazard.
During the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, Catholics took refuge in Donglu Village. At that time, the Qing Dynasty launched a wave of violence against foreigners and christianity. But in Donglu, the Boxers who tried to attack the church were defeated.
Students from local primary and secondary schools, as well as universities in Baoding, received notices requiring them to stay on campus on “Christmas Eve.” Any form of celebration is prohibited, and items with Christmas elements are not allowed to be brought into the dormitories.
The measures of the local authorities to prohibit or restrict Christmas activities are in line with Beijing’s governance requirements. Religious groups are under significant pressure, and all kinds of Christmas activities are prohibited from taking place.
The situation in Baoding reflects the reality that various local governments across China are cooperating with the national leadership’s advocacy of “strict governance over religious affairs.” On Christmas Eve, Wang Huning, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party of China and president of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, met with the leadership of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China and the China Christian Council. Wang Huning urged Christian leaders to adhere to “full and strict governance over religious affairs,” conduct religious activities in accordance with laws and regulations, adhere to the direction of “Sinicization of Christianity,” and build a team of teaching personnel that is “politically reliable.”
This Christmas Eve, the government, schools, and businesses have issued notices on how to boycott foreign holidays and prohibit Christmas commercial promotions. Several Chinese universities, primary and secondary schools, and even kindergartens have issued bans, prohibiting students from celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas. If any classes or individual students are found celebrating Christmas, they are threatened with serious consequences. Authorities also forbid vendors from selling Christmas cards, Christmas apples, and using Christmas decorations.