On Christmas Eve this year, the tens of millions of Christians in China can only celebrate their most important religious holiday discreetly and in fear as the Communist Party regime has unleashed its most severe crackdown on Christmas in recent years. Church services are strictly curtailed and monitored by cameras, and there have been reports of Christmas trees getting toppled and local authorities sponsoring “anti-Christmas protests” meant to drive Christians into the shadows.
In one example, the Public Security Bureau of Anqing City in Anhui Province in eastern China issued a notice on Dec. 21 titled “The prohibition of any Christmas-related activity.” It ordered all commercial and public avenues “not to create any atmosphere of Christmas celebration” and banned any display of Christmas trees, Santa Claus, or any item associated with Christmas.
Many Churches have been discouraged and in many cases prohibited by local governments from holding services or any celebrations for congregations around Christmas Eve and Christmas. Such a constraint on Christmas has happened both at the underground “House Churches” and also at the “Three-Self Churches.” The Three-Self Churches are the state-sanctioned protestant churches in China that are institutionally controlled by the Chinese regime and that supposedly represent all Christians in China.
The ChinaAid report cites a churchgoer in the city of Heshan in southern China’s Guangdong Province who said that officials from Public Security Bureau “seized control” of a local Three-Self church and installed numerous surveillance cameras at the church entrance two weeks prior to Christmas.
The crackdown is more severe for the large number of underground House Churches across China, which are deemed illegal by the Chinese regime. A woman who attends a House Church at Tonghua City in the northeastern province of Jilin said that the local Public Security Bureau has banned “any Christian gathering of more than eight people.”
Due to the intense crackdown, many Christians in China have reportedly shifted to celebrating Christmas in early December, or to not celebrating at all in public. ChinaAid published a photo taken by a churchgoer in coastal Zhejiang Province which shows the poor attendance at the church’s Christmas Eve dinner, likely due to pressure from the authorities.
The Chinese Communist Party officially espouses an atheist ideology based on Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong thought and prohibits Party members from belonging to a religion. Despite official opposition to religion, though, China’s Christian population has soared in recent years and is now numbered in the tens of millions by various estimates.
The regime’s crackdown on Christmas goes beyond stopping Chinese Christians from attending churches. Government officials in many places orchestrate and support “anti-Christmas protests,” such as one in Zhejiang Province recently where, according to ChinaAid, a group of “retirees” paraded with China’s national flag and yelled slogans like “Boycott Christmas!” and “No to Christmas!”
One of the events it mentions is the 1946 “Shen Chong case,” which concerns an alleged rape of a Chinese girl by American soldiers stationed in Beijing on Christmas Eve of that year. That incident has been thoroughly debunked by historians as a smear campaign that was fabricated by the Chinese Communist Party to be used against the Chinese nationalist government during the civil war.