A senior Chinese official who oversees state-sanctioned churches has vowed to purge Christianity in China of any Western “imprint”, calling for further “sinicisation” of the religion.
Xu Xiaohong, chairman of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), attacked the “Western influence” on Christianity saying, “[We] must recognise that Chinese churches are surnamed ‘China’, not ‘the West.’”
“The actions by anti-China forces that attempt to affect our social stability or even subvert the regime of our country are doomed to fail,” Xu told delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
According to Xu, Christianity spread to China when Western powers were invading the country, and is, therefore, a “foreign religion.”
“Some believers lack national consciousness, and that’s why we have the saying: ‘One more Christian, on less Chinese,’” Xu said.
“No matter how much effort or time it takes, our resolution in upholding the Sinicisation of Protestantism will never change, and our determination to walk a path that is adapted to a socialist society will never waver.”
According to The Christian Post, China’s “sinicization campaign” was introduced by President Xi Jinping in 2015 and seeks to bring religion under the official atheist party’s absolute control and into line with Chinese culture.
“According to a five-year plan to sinicize Protestant churches released by the Chinese religious authorities, efforts to make the faith more ‘Chinese’ include a rewrite of the New Testament using Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings to champion socialist ideals.”
Over the past year, local governments have shut down hundreds of unofficial church gatherings that operate outside the government approved network. Furthermore, authorities have reportedly removed crosses from buildings, forced churches to hang the Chinese flag, sing patriotic songs, and barred minors from attending services.
“Last year’s crackdown is the worst in three decades,” Bob Fu, the founder of ChinaAid, told The Guardian.
“Bibles, sales of which have always been controlled in China, are no longer available for purchase online, a loophole that had existed for years. In December, Christmas celebrations were banned in several schools and cities across China.”
In 2017, South China Morning Post reported that local governments urged impoverished believers to remove images of Jesus and crosses and replace them with portraits of President Xi if they wanted to benefit from poverty-relief efforts.
But Qi Yan, chairman of the Huangjinbu people’s congress and the people in charge of the township’s poverty-relief drive claimed, relief funds were not contingent on the removal of religious imagery.
“We only asked them to take down [religious] posters in the centre of the home. They can still hang them in other rooms, we won’t interfere with that. What we require is for them not to forget about the party’s kindness at the centre of their living rooms.”
There are at least 60 million Christians in China.