China’s state newspaper the Global Times reported Wednesday that Communist Party officials in some municipalities have banned members from “celebrating” Christmas in yet another way to fight an alleged “cultural invasion” of China by the West.
The article notes that one chapter of the China Communist Youth League (CCYL) has labeled Christmas “China’s Day of Shame.”
The piece highlights the work of communist officials in Hengyang City in Hunan province, where they have decreed that party members “resist the rampant Western festival.” The order also bans any member of the Communist Party from celebrating Christmas “so as to build a good image of Party officials.”
The CCYL has also generally targeted Christmas as a blight upon the nation, publishing posts on its official social media that state that “Christmas is China’s day of shame” and good communists reject “cultural invasion.”
Youth Leagues at universities — where students may be most open to experiencing different cultures — have also ramped up their attacks on Christmas this year. The UK Telegraph reports that the CCYL of Shenyang Pharmaceutical University posted notices this month around campus banning any activity that could be interpreted as a celebration of Christmas “in order to guide the youth league members in building cultural confidence and resisting the corrosion caused by Western religious culture.”
The group also reportedly hung up banners boasting slogans like “Strive to be outstanding sons and daughters of China, oppose kitsch Western holidays” and “Resist the expansion of Western culture.”
The persecution and attempt to eliminate Christianity from China has become a growing campaign under Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, who emphasizes “socialism with Chinese characteristics” as the dominant ideology — and, arguably, faith — of his country.
Years ago, Chinese police would target only openly Christian acts during Christmas, such as affirmations of faith. In 2014, for example, Chinese police arrested a woman for holding up a sign in public reading: “God, who loves the world so much, is calling Xi Jinping and Peng Liyuan,” referring to the leader and the first lady. The “Strive to be outstanding sons and daughters of China, oppose kitsch western holidays” banners still went up, and Christmas activities limited.
Christians actively practicing their faith are increasingly sought-after police targets. This month, police raided a church and arrested thirteen Christians for praying at an “illegal” service on Sunday in Guangdong province. While no specifics on the charges facing the individuals are yet available, the advocacy group China Aid has revealed that police confiscated “illegal” Bibles and Christian materials found in the church.
In addition to targeting Christians, the Global Times notes that Hengyang and Beijing have banned anyone of any religion from making and selling artificial snow to observe the holiday, punishing this behavior with “a heavy fine.” To compete with Christmas this year, China is debuting the world’s largest ice exhibition, the Harbin Ice and Snow World park, on Christmas Day.
The more secular aspects of Christmas — the bright holiday lights and scramble to shop for presents — remains an active part of Chinese life in places like Shanghai that depend more heavily on foreigners and host foreign, especially Western, businesses. While Chinese citizens may not be allowed to decorate, “for many brands Christmas provides an opportunity to position themselves as international, modern and fun – characteristics that typically appeal to China’s much sought-after millennials and provide plenty of branded selfie-opportunities,” Forbes notes.
In rural China, where the Communist Party may have a less pronounced presence, Beijing has only just begun to flex its muscles. Last month, Communist officials began visiting residents of villages in rural Jiangxi and ordering them to remove images of Jesus in their living rooms and replace them with portraits of Xi Jinping. The individuals were warned that the government would deny them needed aid packages if they did not hide their Christian images in their bedrooms or other places where guests would not encounter them.