Over the past decade, rash optimism that China was finally moving past the era of former Communist dictator Mao Tse-tung’s influence has given way to president Xi Jinping’s reconsolidating his power. One of the major ways he’s done that: persecuting religious believers.
Demanding psychological submission to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), teachers in China are feeding school-age children intensely anti-Christian propaganda, building on the new Regulations on Religious Affairs that ban anyone under the age of 18 from entering a church.
Bitter Winter, an Italy-based publication reporting on Chinese persecution of religious groups, published anonymous accounts of children returning home from school and chastising parents for their faith. Their kids are told that Christianity is a “xie jiao” (Chinese for “cult”) and that if they love their parents, they will warn them not to participate.
“If you believe in it, you will leave home and not take care of me. You might set yourself on fire, too,” one young boy told his mother.
In his textbook titled “Morality and Society,” his mother found lessons on how to resist the xie jiao. She began hiding any religious symbols in her house, reports Bitter Winter, but one day she accidentally left out a religious pamphlet. Her son proceeded to take a knife from the kitchen, aggressively stabbing it several times.
Chinese policy dictates that anyone holding religious activities outside of a church will be arrested. That means no church camps, no Bible studies, no youth groups, no orphanages, no Church-run health clinics, and since 2017, police have begun disrupting funerals for any faith, including native Taoists, Catholic News Agency reported.
It’s all part of the Xi Jinping government’s hard-line approach to religious issues. “There’s only one allowed religion in China, and that’s secular socialism,” Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, tells National Review. “And the Church is the community party, the acolytes, its members, and their pontiff, Chinese president Xi Jinping himself.”
Mosher, author of Bully of Asia, explains that the Chinese officials do not simply want to contain Christianity; they ultimately want to eradicate it. They see human rights as a Western plot to subvert their control of the country, centered on the growing cult of personality around Xi Jinping. This is referred to as China’s campaign to “sinicize” religion, meaning that all citizens must convincingly profess their ultimate loyalty to the Communist Party — or else.
For those who resist, the consequences can be horrifying. Since 2017, over 1 million Uyghur Muslims have been forced into mass internment — and in some cases labor camps — where they’re forced to undergo brutal Chinese reeducation sessions.
Muslims are forbidden to use their native language, drilled in Mandarin Chinese, and forced to stay in the camps until they are no longer deemed a threat to the state — which means disavowing their faith.
One man told the Guardian that he had been verbally abused and interrogated for hours, deprived of sleep and food. Others are being forced to sleep in uncomfortable positions, kept in isolation, and even tortured with electric shocks, simply for wearing a hijab or displaying other Muslim symbols on their clothes. Furthermore, the Guardian reported, police force Muslims to undergo “health checks” which amount to collecting fingerprints, voice recordings, face scans, and blood-type and DNA samples.
Until last month, mass collection of biometric data was regarded as an Orwellian fear tactic. That is, until an independent London-based tribunal of international legal and medical experts confirmed that it’s used for mass organ-harvesting from prisoners of conscience.
“After unwilling donors are executed, the tribunal found, their organs are sold to Chinese citizens or foreign “transplant tourists.” Before 2015, China had no voluntary organ-transplant system; the country’s Confucian value system considers it important to keep the body intact after death. Yet hospitals perform some 60,000 to 90,000 transplant surgeries each year, the New York Post reported.
“Chinese hospitals promise that they can deliver hearts, livers, kidneys, and corneas of matching blood type and size in two weeks. The surgeries can be scheduled in advance, which suggests hospitals know exactly when the ‘donors’ are going to die. By contrast, America has a highly developed voluntary organ-donation system, and recipients typically have to wait hundreds of days,” the report added.
“You used to be only able to make a $150,000 dollars transplanting an organ, but now that life-support machines exist, they can hook up a person until all their organs are sold, making upwards of $700,000,” Mosher told National Review.
The Uyghur saga demonstrates that the Chinese government is willing to imprison, indoctrinate, and butcher its political enemies. And while it appears that Muslims are bearing the worst, Christians aren’t that far behind.
Chinese interference with the Catholic Church in China has led to the separation of China’s 12 million Catholics between the state-sanctioned “Patriotic Church” and the secret “underground church.”
Members of the so-called above-ground church are typically left alone by government officials and are largely unaware of the intense persecution of fellow believers. This is due to diplomatic negotiations between Beijing and the Vatican formerly handled by none other than disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick — at the request of the Chinese government.
Settling a new agreement in 2018 over the appointment of bishops in China, Pope Francis has ceded the power to choose his bishops — with extremely limited veto power — in exchange for Beijing’s recognition of the pope as the head of Chinese Catholics.
“In a further concession, the Vatican has promised that the pope will lift the excommunication of the seven illicit ‘bishops’ of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association even before the new agreement is signed,” Mosher wrote last year.
Second, the pope will order two bishops of the underground Church, who have faithfully served for decades under intense persecution, to hand over their dioceses to bishops appointed by the Communist authorities. Shantou bishop Zhuang Jianjian has been ordered to retire, a decision that has caused enormous pain to the local Church, while Mindong bishop Guo Xijin has been told that he will be made an “auxiliary” of the Shantou diocese he has long headed.
Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen condemned the deal last year, Reuters reported. “A church enslaved by the government is no real Catholic Church,” he said. What they Vatican negotiators are doing “is unfaithful,” Zen said. “I am not judging their conscience, but . . . it’s a surrender and they have no right to surrender.”
That’s because all clergy of the Patriotic Church in China are required to sign legal documents registering with the government. The Vatican has even issued a “pastoral document” affirming they should be compliant with the government, LifeSiteNews reported.
According to Mosher, signing the document affirms that one believes, with Bishop Fang Jianpin, that “I am God’s good servant, but I am Emperor Xi’s first,” OnePeterFive reported. This is the opposite of what Saint Thomas More famously proclaimed: “I am the King’s good servant, but I am God’s first,” a declaration that ultimately led to his martyrdom.
Those who don’t sign the agreement risk being thrown in jail, along with anyone who helps them resist.
According to Mosher, leaving China is not an option for Christians, explaining that would require a visa, and religious people on the government watch list are not allowed to move. In fact, even getting a hotel in China requires citizens to give a mouth swab to the concierge, adding their DNA sample to a mass collection on behalf of the Chinese government.
Praising President Trump’s stand against China, Mosher believes that the U.S. should rethink its priorities. Whereas the majority of the conversation of our dealings with China is centered on America’s economic interests, the human-rights abuses display the nation’s true character, he says.
Congressman Chris Smith (R., N.J.), formerly the head of the bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China, has worked on Sino–U.S. relations for decades. In June, he said: “It’s never been worse than it is right now.” And there’s a growing bipartisan recognition in Washington that a tougher stance on China is long overdue. During the first round of Democratic debates, nearly every candidate said that China poses a major national-security threat to the United States. And the Congressional-Executive Committee on China, now headed by Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Representative Jim McGovern (D., Mass.), recently issued a statement affirming U.S. support for human-rights protestors in Hong Kong.
The spirit of the faithful will sustain those being persecuted by the Chinese government. What’s less certain is the role the U.S. will play. What more do we need to hear for our top officials to condemn what’s going on across the Pacific?