Communist Propaganda in Churches Ahead of CCP Centenary Celebration

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Newly baptized Chinese Catholic worshippers pray during a special ceremony at a mass on Holy Saturday during Easter celebrations at the government sanctioned West Beijing Catholic Church on April 15, 2017 in Beijing, China. China, an officially atheist country, places a number of restrictions on Christians, allowing legal practice of the faith only at state-approved churches. (Image: Kevin Frayer via Getty Images)
Newly baptized Chinese Catholic worshippers pray during a special ceremony at a mass on Holy Saturday during Easter celebrations at the government sanctioned West Beijing Catholic Church on April 15, 2017 in Beijing, China. China, an officially atheist country, places a number of restrictions on Christians, allowing legal practice of the faith only at state-approved churches. (Image: Kevin Frayer via Getty Images)

On July 1, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. Ahead of celebrations, authorities are pushing religious organizations to promote the party, asking followers to study the history of the CCP as well as visit historic sites.

John Fang, Bishop of the Diocese of Shandong and president of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), said that they will continue with the sinicization of the Catholic religion. 

“We maintain a high degree of alignment with the Party and walk firmly on the path of loving the country and the religion,” he said, as reported by Apple Daily.

Liu Yuanlong, vice president of the CPCA and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference’s (CPPCC) National Committee, stated that “God has chosen the Chinese Communist Party.” He cited Proverbs 11:14 to argue for the communist party’s rule in the country. 

“We have to firmly support the Chinese Communist Party with Xi Jinping at its core. We listen to and follow the Party,” he said in a statement. Proverbs 11:14 states that “for lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.”

On May 8th, the China Christian Council (CCC) and the Beijing Municipal Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) Committee held a forum to celebrate the CCP’s centennial. 

These two churches together form the Beijing-approved Protestant church in China. Other religious organizations approved by the Chinese government include the CPCA, Islamic Association of China, Chinese Taoist Association, and Buddhist Association of China. 

Cai Kui, Chair of the two organizations, asked church staff and pastors to study CCP history, guide Christians into being loyal towards the party, and follow the “sinicization of Christianity,” reports The Epoch Times.

Both TSPM and CCC are overseen by the United Front Work Department (UFWD), a unit of the CCP that works to expand party influence overseas. 

In a phone interview with the media outlet, an anonymous human rights lawyer from China said that since the TSPM church is approved by authorities, they will inevitably prioritize reading the party’s documents as well as studying President Xi Jinping’s ideology.

“Some pastors teach the Bible—it is no problem—but they talk about the CCP leaders’ thoughts first… They are not Christians… The CCP is actually sinicizing all home churches, communizing them—in other words, turning them into Three-Self churches. The so-called sinicization of Christianity is communization, [because] it must follow the leadership of the CCP. But it won’t be a church if it does so … it would become a deceptive organization,” the lawyer said.

In February, CPPCC National Committee Chairperson Wang Yang asked religious leaders to use the anniversary celebrations to bring religious doctrine in line with socialist ideology. 

In May, the Central Office of the Chinese Communist Party issued a notice asking that CCP’s history be promoted in all sectors of society. As a result, certain religious groups are holding classes for their members in association with the Institute of Socialism.

Sinicization, USCIRF report

On May 1, the “Measures on the Management of Religious Professionals” came into effect in communist China. The law mandates people who hold a formal role in religious communities to swear loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party and work towards the sinicization of their faith. 

Religious professionals have been asked to combat foreign religious infiltration. Those who violate the new mandates will have to face criminal charges and administrative sanctions.

According to Fenggang Yang, a sociology professor at Purdue University who oversees the Center on Religion and the Global East, there has been a significant change in communist China’s religious policy in the last two or three years, reports VOA. The new policies seek to impose further restrictions on religious professionals.

“In principle, the Chinese Communist Party adheres to Marxism-Leninism, which includes atheism… There are logical problems when the Chinese authorities require religious professionals to embrace the Communist Party and atheism for their leadership or domination,” Yang told VOA.

In its 2021 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) stated that religious freedom in communist China had deteriorated in 2020.

“Although the CCP has long repressed religious freedom, in recent years it has become increasingly hostile toward religion, resulting in campaigns to “sinicize” Islam, Tibetan Buddhism, and Christianity to rid the religions of alleged “foreign influences.” 

“These policies require religious groups to support CCP rule and its overall objectives and interests, including by altering their teachings to conform to CCP ideology and adopting architectural and other changes to their sites and symbols,” the report said.

Religious groups and individuals, whether registered or unregistered, who do not follow the CCP rules face the risk of arrest, detainment, harassment, and imprisonment. The USCIRF report asks the American government to redesignate China as a “country of particular concern” and publicly express concerns about Beijing hosting the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. It also recommends Washington declare that American officials will not be attending the games if Beijing continues with its suppression of religious freedom.