Pastors in China’s Christian churches are preaching the Chinese Communist Party’s ideology following the removal of Bible-related apps and major Christian social media accounts, leading some to claim that there is an effort to communize religious organizations on CCP-controlled land.
On May 8, the two state-sanctioned Protestant organizations in Beijing—the Beijing Municipal Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee and the China Christian Council—held a forum to celebrate the CCP’s 100th anniversary, according to a report on the organizations’ combined official website.
Pastors and church staff are required to study the CCP’s history, guide believers to follow the Party, and follow the “sinicization of Christianity,” said Cai Kui, the chair of the two organizations.
Two other official organizations in Shandong Province’s Jining city held a praise concert at Huajiajie Church in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the CCP, according to another report on the website.
“The Chinese regime has tightened its control on the official churches,” said Father Francis Liu from the San Francisco-based Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness, a nonprofit organization concerned about Christianity in China.
Thoughts from Chinese leader Xi Jinping, along with the CCP’s propaganda—like claims that the pandemic originated in the United States—are delivered in state-approved churches, Liu told The Epoch Times.
On May 2, Liu posted photos and videos on Twitter of a church in Wenzhou city, Zhejiang Province, where a pastor was teaching “the founding mission of the CCP.”
In China, the official Christian church is the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Church, supervised by the United Front Work Department.
State security police and religious affairs bureau officials frequently raid unofficial house churches that aren’t members of the CCP-backed Three-Self Patriotic Association, although member churches have also been targeted at times.
“It is quite normal,” a human rights lawyer in China, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Epoch Times.
Pastors ordained into the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Church are approved by the authorities, “so they, of course, will study Xi’s ideology and prioritize reading the Party’s documents,” the lawyer said in a phone interview.
“Some pastors teach the Bible—it is no problem—but they talk about the CCP leaders’ thoughts first,” the lawyer said. “They are not Christians.
“The CCP is actually sinicizing all home churches, communizing them—in other words, turning them into Three-Self churches. The so-called sinicization of Christianity is communization, [because] it must follow the leadership of the CCP. But it won’t be a church if it does so … it would become a deceptive organization.”
On May 1, China’s new religious regulation, Measures on the Management of Religious Professionals, came into effect. It requires those who hold any formal role in a religious group to pledge allegiance to the CCP and double down on the sinicization of religion.
The communization of religion was also written into religious school administrative measures, which will come into effect on Sept. 1, 2021.
Bibles Taken Down From Shelves
On April 29, subscribers of Christian public accounts on WeChat, such as the Gospel Coalition and the Great Christian, were greeted with the message, “the account is suspended and blocked.”
Popular Bible apps were taken down from the Chinese App Store, according to the International Christian Concern.
Several websites promoting religious thoughts were shut down or blocked in China, including state-authorized online bookshops that sell Buddhist sutras, according to Liu.
“It is not limited to mainland China, because it is already reaching Hong Kong. So, for example, the Taiwan-based Presbyterian Church’s website is blocked in Hong Kong,” Liu said.
Following this trend, copies of the Bible itself are rarely found for general sale in China anymore. It was pulled from Chinese online shopping platforms, including the dominant Taobao, JD.com, and Amazon in March 2018.
The physical versions are only available for sale in the state-approved Three-Self churches, along with books promoting Xi’s ideology.
“Many people no longer believe the CCP’s propaganda, and they hope to find solace and support from religion. So all religions are deemed as disadvantageous and unstable factors to [the control of] the CCP,” Liu said.
The CCP embraces atheism and communizing all religions using revised religious regulations to ban anything it deems as unauthorized religious teachings in China, including Islam, Tibetan Buddhism, and Christianity, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its 2021 annual report.
However, the regulation itself violates the Chinese Constitution, Chinese human rights lawyer Sui Muqing told The Epoch Times on May 11.
Article 36 of the Constitution explicitly states that Chinese citizens enjoy “freedom of religious belief” and prevents state organs, organizations, and individuals from compelling people to believe or not believe in any religion.
Sui pointed out that lodging an administrative appeal against the revised regulation was impossible “because an abstract administration cannot be appealed.”
In similar cases, such as detained house church member Chen Jianguo, the court refused to register his appeal, so there is no chance to debate the legitimacy of such wrong rules, Sui said.
Chen was arrested and given a three-day administrative detention for attending a worship service in a home church in southwestern China’s Guizhou Province in March.
On April 25, a house church in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen was raided by Chinese police, national security agents, and religious affairs officials.
The USCIRF report listed the Chinese regime as a “country of particular concern” for its persistent and severe violations of religious freedom.
Luo Ya contributed to this report.