The year 2020 proved to be quite a turbulent time with the world still struggling to live through the havoc of the CCP virus raging across the globe, claiming over 11 million lives in the United States and more than 55 million worldwide.
However, despite the pandemic, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has never once stopped targeting religious believers in China, be it Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, Uyghur Muslims, or Tibetan Buddhists.
As people across the world celebrate and rejoice over Christmas this season, let’s not forget some of the grave incidents of persecution that Christians in China have endured this year.
Over 900 Crosses Removed
The CCP removed more than 900 crosses from state-run churches in the first half of the year in Anhui Province alone, according to Bitter Winter, a magazine on religious liberty and human rights in China.
“All Christian symbols are ordered to be removed as part of the government’s crackdown campaign,” a state employee told Bitter Winter.
After the cross at Hancheng Church in Hanshan county was removed in April, a church member revealed to Bitter Winter that officials from the United Front Work Department said that “all crosses taller than government buildings must be demolished because they overshadow state institutions.”
"Only churches that look like enterprises are considered legal. To ‘sinicize’ Christianity, Xi Jinping does not allow churches to have Western crosses." The anonymous member added that an elder in the church was warned that protesting against the cross demolition would equate to "protesting against the government."
Other anonymous church members told the magazine if the congregation disobeyed the communist party’s orders, their church would be shut down, and they “may lose their social benefits, like pensions and poverty-alleviation subsidies.” Their children’s future employment could also be affected.
“The cross is a church symbol, and if it is removed, who could distinguish it from other buildings?” a church member said.
The churches in Jiangxi Province were not spared from the crackdown either. The magazine reported that over 100 people from government officials and police forcibly demolished the cross of the Grace Church in Zixi County on Sept. 11, 2019. Church members who tried to take photos of the demolition had their phones confiscated.
Churches Raided, Closed Down
Apart from demolishing the crosses, the Chinese regime has raided and closed down many house churches and state-run churches across the country. The authorities also confiscated Bibles, Bitter Winter reported.
In a police raid in Shaanxi Province in July this year, a dozen house church members, including minors, aged 8 to 11 years old, were taken into police custody for questioning, while in September, eight police officers and government officials rushed into the house church in Liangshan county of Jining City. Declaring it was "an illegal gathering," the officials warned them “to believe in the Communist Party if they needed a belief.”
According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), in May, local police in Xiamen City raided a House Church meeting, which was held in a private residence, and detained nine people. The pastor, Yang Xibo, told RFA that the police had barged in without showing any ID or without any warrant.
“The state security police came banging at the door, then they kicked it down and dragged those in the way outside the doorway, dragging them to the ground,” Yang told RFA, adding that some of the members were injured during the scuffle.
Yang said the raid might have stemmed from the church’s refusal to join the state-approved Three-Self Patriotic Association.
The churches that were shut down were later rented out, sold off, or repurposed by the local officials. In June, a state-approved Three-Self church in Jiangsu Province was turned into a memorial hall to commemorate the Red Army, while the Chenzhuang Church was sold for merely 20,000 yuan (US$3,000) in July, Bitter Winter reported.
Reporting Believers for Monetary Rewards
Since 1999, the Chinese regime has been keeping up with another violent suppression of faith: the persecutory campaign against Falun Gong practitioners.
Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, is an ancient cultivation discipline in the Buddha school based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. After its introduction in China in 1992, the practice became immensely popular owing to its healing benefits, both physical and spiritual. However, the CCP launched a brutal crackdown on the group in July 1999, fearing that the practice could be a threat to its communist ideology of class struggle and hate. Many adherents were arrested, detained, and tortured.
To further its suppression of the spiritual group, the Chinese authorities began rolling out programs to reward citizens with up to 100,000 yuan (US$15,000) when they report Falun Gong adherents’ activities to the police, The Epoch Times reported.
According to Bitter Winter, Chinese citizens can report members of any of the "banned" religious and spiritual groups to the police if they are seen producing and distributing religious information brochures, pictures, publications, slogans, etc.
“The national campaign to crack down on religion is more severe than during the Cultural Revolution,” an official from Inner Mongolia told the magazine last October.
Threatened to Renounce God for Social Welfare
The CCP, with its official ideologies rooted in totalitarianism and atheism, requires from its current and retired party members to not believe in religions.
Young students are also warned to stay away from gods or risk being expelled from school. The communist party has also been targeting elderly religious believers by threatening to remove their social welfare benefits if they choose to believe in gods, stated Bitter Winter.
In January, a woman who was immobile due to illness was stripped of her government welfare benefits when officials discovered that she hosted religious meetings at her home in Yingtan City, Jiangxi Province. Meanwhile, officials in Shandong Province threatened an elderly Catholic woman to take down religious symbols in her home.
The woman, who is in her 70s, said the officials warned her to replace the symbols with portraits of Xi Jinping or Mao Zedong because “she lives on the Communist Party’s welfare.”
“By forcing me to remove the portrait of the Lord Jesus, the government tried to stop my belief in God, but they cannot take away my belief from my heart,” she told Bitter Winter.
In April, officials in Fuzhou City, Jiangxi Province, went to a nursing home where a paralyzed elderly believer was staying and tore down pictures of Jesus in his room. He was told that if he continues to practice his faith, he would be driven out of the nursing home and his government-issued social welfare benefits would be taken away.
“The officials said that I am supposed to believe in the Communist Party since it feeds me, or else all my social benefits would be canceled,” he told the magazine.