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China Communist Party Reasserts Absolute Control over Religion

This photo taken on December 24, 2014 shows the choir of an underground church singing at a Christmas Eve service at an apartment in Beijing. China is now home to an estimated 70 million Christians, according to a 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center, as people search for a …
GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty

The Communist Party will retain absolute control over religious activities in China, wrote Beijing’s religion czar in a Communist Party journal this week, in the midst of talks with the Vatican to reestablish diplomatic relations.

“There is no affiliate relationship between our country’s religions and foreign religions,” wrote Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), in the latest issue of the bi-monthly journal Qiushi.

“Our country’s religious groups and religious matters do not accept domination by foreign forces,” he said.

Mr. Wang, a hardcore atheist, has insisted on the need to keep the party completely free of religious influence given the incompatibility of Chinese Marxism with religious belief.

“Party members should not have religious beliefs, which is a red line for all members,” Wang wrote in the same journal last year.

“Party members should be firm Marxist atheists, obey Party rules and stick to the Party’s faith,” he said, adding, “they are not allowed to seek value and belief in religion.”

Wang said that Party officials who are religious believers should be persuaded to give it up, and anyone who resists will be punished by the Party organization.

This year, the Chinese government has closed down more than 20 official and underground churches in Xining, located in China’s northwestern Qinghai, according to Wang Ruiqin, the associate secretary-general for the national Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and China Christian Council (CCC).

“They include both Three-Self and house churches,” Ms. Wang said, adding that many fellowships have been closed and that the Christians’ religious life has been “interfered with.”

Ms. Wang wrote a letter to Wang Zuoan, drawing his attention to the closed churches and calling on the government to protect the Christians’ rights to religious belief and swiftly approve churches waiting to join the TSPM.

Last year, Wang Zuoan said that new regulations tightening Party control over religion were “urgently needed because the foreign use of religion to infiltrate [China] intensifies by the day and religious-extremist thought is spreading in some areas.”

The stricter regulations will help the government maintain “the Sinicisation of religion in our country,” Wang said, “and keep to the correct path of adapting religion to a socialist society.”

Last Monday, government officials demolished a centuries-old officially registered Catholic church in Qianwang, in the Licheng district.

“Around midday a hundred ‘thugs’ arrived suddenly in the church and began demolition work on the building, smashing the altar, the statues and the benches,” AsiaNews reported.

Another church in Jinan was demolished last month, razing it to the ground with bulldozers, despite a government permit to operate legally.

Around 40 law enforcement officials and government workers stormed Liangwang Catholic Church on the morning of July 17, according to a report published Saturday.

Another 30 men arrived later in the day with bulldozers, demolishing the building as well as the altar and church furnishings.

Officials reportedly set fire to what remained of the church after its destruction.

The ongoing destruction of Christian churches demonstrates the Communist’s fear of Christianity, according to one report.

The International Christian Concern (ICC), a watchdog group, noted the irony of sending as many as 70 men to destroy a simple Christian church.

“The disproportionate manpower used to demolish this church goes to show that China is fearful of Christians,” said ICC Regional Manager Gina Goh. “The government knew that the demolition in the name of urban zoning would be met with resistance, so it ensured success by taking extreme measures.”

“Despite their best efforts to intimidate the Church with actions like this, the government cannot destroy the faith and resilience of Chinese Christians,” Goh said.

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