Chinese police have arrested a Christian woman who, on Christmas Day, tried to hang signs near the Imperial Palace, on the gate of Zhongnanhai, the home of Chinese leaders. Her stated intent was “to bring the Gospel” to President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan.
The sign read, “God, who loves the world so much, is calling Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan.” The woman, Zhou Jinxia, has attempted in the past to proclaim the Gospel to several leaders of the Communist Party.
After the arrest, the police took Zhou to a psychiatric unit for diagnosis. A member of an underground Protestant community, Zhou denies being mentally ill and says she only wants to spread the Gospel to “change the corrupt thoughts” of the people’s party.
Before being hauled away by police, Zhou said she was not worried about what will happen. “I will accept whatever comes my way,” she said.
For years now, China has seeing a veritable river of conversions to Christianity, both Protestant and Catholic. According to reports, on Christmas night 2014, in Beijing alone, at least three thousand people were baptized, most of whom were young people. An estimated 100 million plus Christians are in mainland China, exceeding the 85 million members of the Communist Party.
As a result, Chinese authorities have been trying, unsuccessfully, to curb its appeal, particularly on the young.
In recent days, in Wenzhou, the Department of Education issued a directive prohibiting any event related to Christmas in schools and kindergartens. The directive declares that authorities will enforce the ruling so that no Christmas celebrations take place because they are “kitsch” and “not according to Chinese tradition.” The directive was also spread to college campuses nationwide.
Before Christmas, the Modern College of Northwest University, located in Xi’an, hung banners around campus proclaiming, “Strive to be outstanding sons and daughters of China, oppose kitsch western holidays” and “Resist the expansion of western culture.”
Ever since China opened up to foreign trade, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, greeting cards, and even manger scenes have spread visibly. Although December 25 is a normal working day, thousands of young non-Christians attend church services attempting to understand what Christmas is, and many of them are enrolled in catechumenate programs with the intent of being baptized.
According to a survey conducted several years ago, in universities in Beijing and Shanghai, 60% of young people expressed interest in learning about Christianity.
The Wenzhou directive goes hand in hand with the government campaign to demolish religious buildings and pull down crosses, which was launched by the party secretary of the Zhejiang Province, and whose primary purpose is to reduce the influence of Christianity in society, since this religion has been branded as “Western spiritual pollution.” The government has reportedly targeted as many as 400 churches across the province.
Ironically, the very Zhejiang–and in particular, the city of Yiwu–makes its living from Christmas: sixty percent of Christmas decorations for the entire world are produced there.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.