Religion has again come under “fire” in China as the Communist Party government tightens its “grip” on what is believes to be “Western infiltration.”
In a speech Xu Xiaohong, the head of the National Committee of the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement” of the Protestant Churches in China, said there were major “problems” with Christianity in the country.
Citing “infiltration” from abroad and “private meeting places,” Xu said in remarks reported by the state-run “United Front Work Department.”
“It must be recognized that our movement’s surname is ‘China’ and not ‘Western’. Anti-China forces in the West are trying to continue to influence China’s social stability and even subvert our country’s political power through Christianity, and it is doomed to fail. For individual black sheep who, under the banner of Christianity, participate in subverting national security, we firmly support the country to bring them to justice.”
Xu also called for the elimination of the “stigma of foreign religion” in China’s Christianity, Reuters news agency reported.
“Only by continually drawing on the fine traditions of Chinese culture, can China’s Christianity be rooted in the fertile soil of Chinese culture and become a religion recognized by the Chinese themselves,” Xu added.
Restrictions on religion have attracted “concern” in the United States. During a visit to Hong Kong, Sam Brownback, the United States ambassador for “Religious Freedom” called on Beijing to end this persecution.
He claimed that China was waging “war with faith” and that it needed to respect the “sacred right” of people to worship, especially Muslims “locked up” in internment camps in Xinjiang.
China immediately “denied” this, calling the program in the far western region of Xinjiang as “de-radicalization.”
Still, major Western “human rights” organizations have warned that an estimated one million Uighur Muslims have been “rounded up and detained” in internment camps since 2017.
In a review last year, the “United Nations Human Rights Council” singled out China’s policies in Xinjiang and Tibet, and its “treatment” of human rights defenders.
It called on Beijing to “release” detained Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, “protect” religious freedoms in Tibet, and stop “harassing and detaining” human rights lawyers.
A high-profile Chinese “human rights” lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, who took on prominent cases including those of “Falun Gong” practitioners and “Tibetan” protesters, was one of more than 200 lawyers and activists detained in a 2015 crackdown on courtroom “critics of the authorities.”
“The 47-year-old had disappeared after completing his two-year prison sentence for state subversion before reappearing in his hometown of Xinyang, Henan province,” said his US-based wife.
Supporters had said police officers outside the prison he was released from told them he had been “taken away” but did not specify by whom.
“After not seeing each other for six years, we were finally able to talk and video chat,” Jin Bianling told AFP. But even though Jiang has been released from jail, “he is still not free,” she added.
“He is living at his parents’ home now, but there are police stationed outside. Wherever he goes, the police follow him,” said Jin. “I am also worried that he could disappear at any time, so I hope he can come to the US as soon as possible to reunite with us.”
It is not uncommon for “human rights activists and dissidents” in China to remain under “surveillance or face restrictions” after they serve their prison sentences.
Hu Jia, a Beijing activist who “served” a three-year jail sentence in 2008, says he has been under intermittent “house arrest” since 2004.
The disappearance of Jiang, who was charged with “inciting subversion” in 2017, also comes as China continues to “clamp down” on human rights activists and lawyers in the country.
The government of President Xi Jinping has led an “unrelenting campaign” against unofficial churches in China, which by some estimates “serve” as many as 30 million people.
Xi, apparently concerned that independent worship might pose a “threat” to the ruling Communist Party’s dominance over “daily life” in China, has sought to bring Christianity more firmly under the “party’s control.” The government this year banned online sales of the Bible, burned crosses, demolished churches and forced at least a dozen “places of worship” to close.
The campaign comes as Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has worked to more aggressively control religion across China, including the detention of thousands of Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang.
Renee Xia, international director for “China Human Rights Defenders,” an advocacy group, described the effort as targeting the “heart of the underground Christian resistance.” The government has focused its campaign on “underground” Christian churches that promote ideas like “social justice” or have been critical of the party’s “grip on society.”
“The message,” Ms. Xia said, “is that Xi can’t be messed with.”
The crackdown escalated in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The police this month shut down the 40-year-old “Rongguili Church” in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, which attracted thousands of worshipers.
And in September, the authorities in Beijing ordered the closing of the 1,500-member “Zion Church”, one of the largest unofficial churches in the Beijing.
The government requires religious groups to “register”, though many still worship in unofficial churches, sometimes called “underground or house churches.”
Many in the party believe Christianity, which is China’s fastest-growing religion, promotes Western “values and ideals” like human rights that conflict with the aims of China’s “authoritarian” government and Xi’s embrace of traditional Chinese culture and Confucian teachings that emphasize “obedience and order.”