How Xi Jinping is attacking religion in China
The officially atheist Chinese Communist Party disapproves of all kinds of grassroots organizations as they are seen to undermine its grip on power.
China is waging an unprecedented war on religion. Over the past year alone, China has detained Muslims because of their faith, forced Buddhists to pledge allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party, and coerced Christian churches to take down their crosses or shut down.
The sinicization of religion
The Party, which is officially atheist, has for decades attempted to control religious organizations to maintain its dominance. Its State Administration for Religious Affairs, set up in 1951, allows five religious organizations to exist under the state’s control: a Party-sanctioned form of Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism.
The state controls these groups’ personnel, publications, and finances. Technically, citizens are free to practise religion freely, as long as their sect is officially sanctioned by the government.
Party officials in 2015 introduced the term “sinicization” into official government lexicon, in which they called on Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian leaders to fuse their religions with Chinese socialist thought.
Roderic Wye, a former first secretary in the British Embassy in Beijing, told Business Insider: “The party has always had trouble with religion one way or another, because often religious activity tends to imply some sort of organization. Once there are organizations, the party is very keen to control them.”
But under the presidency of Xi Jinping, the government’s crackdown appears to have increased at an alarming scale.
Monitored services, censored sermons
Authorities have also targeted Christians outside the state-sanctioned Catholic and Protestant associations by burning Bibles, shutting down churches, and ordering people to renounce their faith, the Associated Press reported.
Some churches allowed to remain open have to install facial-recognition cameras in the building, or risk getting shut down. Party officials censor and add state propaganda to pastors’ sermons, Bob Fu, who runs the US rights group ChinaAid, told France24.
In September, authorities in China and the Vatican signed an agreement in which Pope Francis officially recognized seven Beijing-appointed bishops, who had been excommunicated because they weren’t approved by the Holy See. Critics said the deal ceded power from the Holy See to the Communist Party.
The loyalties of China’s approximately 10 million Catholics are split between the Vatican and the state-supervised Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. China has about 100 million Protestants, the Financial Times reported.