China Plans Olympic Ski Events in Region Noted for Persecuting Catholics

Skiers hold a banner which reads "14th Chongli International Ski festival" at a ski resort in Zhangjiakou in northern China's Hebei province on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014. Zhangjiakou is the site for the Nordic events for Beijing's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Summer …
AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

Human rights watchdog group Bitter Winter noted Wednesday that while China’s hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics has been roundly criticized over Beijing’s abuse of Uyghur Muslims, a less well-known outrage is China’s decision to hold skiing competitions in the Chahar region, where Catholics were brutally oppressed after World War II.

Chahar’s Xiwanzi village became a “haven for Catholic missionaries” during the century leading up to the war, while the rest of the area was murderously hostile to the Catholics, Bitter Winter noted. 

That haven was lost when the nascent Chinese Communist Party (CCP) classified Catholicism as its enemy:

In 1946, Chinese Communists attacked Xiwanzi village of Chongli county, tortured and killed nearly one thousand civilians in an extremely inhumane way, including killing small children less than ten years old. Communists recaptured Chongli in 1948, and ravaged and plundered it again. Chongli is one of the main locations China will use for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Chinese Communists tortured 33 Trappist monks of Our Lady of Consolation Trappist Abbey at Yangjiaping of Xuanhua to death in 1937, which was described by Paul Hattaway as “ranking among the worst atrocities ever committed against any groups of Christians.”

In September, 1951, Chinese Communists arrested the Bishop of Xiwanzi, Léon De Smedt, and other clergies in Kalgan. After two months he died because of the harsh treatment. Chinese Communists banned the Legion of Mary, as part of their “Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries.” In February 1952, Communists started expelling foreign clergy from Xiwanzi Diocese. By 1954, all 27 foreign missionaries had been expelled.

Chahar’s Catholics have continued to be a thorn in the Communist Party’s side, even as the party moved to co-opt Catholicism and replace underground churches with “licensed” worship more friendly to communist politics. Defiant Catholic priests have been frequently beaten and arrested since the 1990s. Some have now been under arrest or surveillance for over a decade.

China’s “transformation” of Catholicism has not been gentle and priests from Chahar have suffered some of the most forceful “re-educations.”

“China’s genocide and continuous persecution in Chahar, without any reparation or apology, is a crime against humanity. Let us be explicit: the 2022 Winter Olympics, if not canceled, will be a greater shame than the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” Bitter Winter concluded.

Chinese media gives no inkling of this history when touting Chongli as a beautiful ski resort, its economy a rousing rags-to-riches success story thanks to tourism pumped up by the approaching Olympic Games.

In February, China’s state-run Xinhua news service hailed Chongli as the “Davos of the East,” a reference to the fabled ski resort in Switzerland where the World Economic Forum is held every year. Xinhua quoted only Chongli business owners and residents ecstatic about the lucrative business opportunities flowing from the Olympics. Chinese media coverage invariably focuses on how Chongli has been raised up from dire poverty by tourism.

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