Chinese Officials Burn Bibles, Close Churches, Force Christians To Denounce Faith Amid ‘Escalating' Crackdown
The Chinese government is destroying crosses, burning bibles, closing churches and forcing Christian
believers to sign papers renouncing their faith as the crackdown on religious congregations in Beijing and several provinces
The suppression of religious freedoms is part of an official campaign to "Sinicize"
religion by demanding loyalty to the atheist Communist party and removing any potential challenge to the party's power in
"The international community should be alarmed and outraged for this blatant violation of freedom
of religion and belief," Bob Fu of China Aid, said.
"The situation for Chinese #Christians becomes more
dire by the day. We are working tirelessly to put maximum pressure on China stop the persecution," Jay Sekulow, President
Trump attorney and Chief Counsel at the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), wrote in a tweet.
of Christians in China is nothing new. A report by the watchdog group Freedom House found that Christians and other religious
groups in China have been persecuted since 2012, Fox News reported.
A third of all religious believers in China who belong to a faith group were also found to face "high"
to "very high" levels of persecution, which ranges from bureaucratic harassment and economic exploitation to harsh
prison terms and even violence, the report said.
But experts and activists say the Chinese government is now waging
the most severe suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedoms were granted by the Chinese constitution
The escalating anti-Christian campaign coincides with President Xi Jinping recent consolidation of power
that made him the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, the notorious communist leader responsible for millions of
Activists reportedly filmed footage of what appeared to be piles of burning bibles and forms declaring that
the signatories had rejected their faith. The authorities allegedly forced the believers to sign the forms or risk being expelled
from school or loosing welfare benefits.
A Christian Pastor in the Henan city of Nanyang,
whose name was not identified out of fear of retaliation by the authorities, reportedly confirmed that crosses, bibles and
furniture were burned during a raid on his church on Sept. 5.
He added that local authorities were in discussions
with the church about reforming it, but no agreement had been reached.
According to Chinese laws, religious believers
are allowed to worship only in government-sanctioned congregations. But many millions of Christians belong to underground
or house churches that ignore government regulations.
Officials reportedly disputed the allegations raised by Christians,
saying authorities respect religious freedom.
The anti-religion campaign affected not only Christian denominations.
Around 1 million Uighurs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the country's northwest have been detained in indoctrination
camps where they are forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the Communist Party.
The Chinese government denied
setting up the camps for indoctrination, but stressed the importance to tackle extremism.
China has an around 38 million
Protestants, and some have predicted that the country will have the world's largest Christian population in a few decades.
China, Vatican ‘May Sign Deal' on Chinese Catholics, Bishops: Taiwan
Beijing and the Vatican are on the verge of an agreement on the status of China's Catholic Church
and the controversial appointment of bishops by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, reports indicate.
in the Wall Street Journal on Friday cited two people close to negotiations as saying that a deal was very close.
In Taipei, Taiwan foreign affairs spokesman Li Hsien-chang said the democratic island's officials had a similar
understanding of the situation.
"I think lately it is looking as if the two sides will sign an agreement
on religious matters," Li told a news conference.
Asked if a deal would mean that the Vatican would break
off diplomatic relations with Taipei in favor of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, Li said not necessarily.
"We have been assured by the Holy See that this agreement is purely on religious matters," Li said. "Naturally,
we don't take this lightly, because this agreement on religious matters is a very important agreement between China and the
"We are paying very close attention to developments," he said, adding that his ministry's
information was very reliable, and that there was a "smooth flow" of information from the Holy See at all times.
The Vatican is one of a handful of states to maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, still officially governed
by the last remnant of the Republic of China formed by Sun Yat-sen's 1911 revolution that toppled imperial rule.
A switch in recognition?
There had been concerns in Taiwan that any rapprochement between the Vatican
and the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing could lead to the Vatican switching its recognition to the People's Republic of
China, which refuses to accept dual recognition under its "One China" policy.
However, an employee
who answered the phone at the embassy of the Catholic church in Taipei declined to comment when contacted by RFA on Friday.
"Sorry, we won't be commenting on this matter," the employee said.
Archbishop Hung Shan-chuan
of Taipei also declined to comment, saying he hadn't been informed.
"I don't know ... [the Vatican] never
asked for my opinion, and what could I say anyway?" Hung said. "I just told [my superior] that they could set up
diplomatic ties but that they shouldn't harm Taiwan. He said they wouldn't harm Taiwan."
I believe him. He's my superior; why wouldn't I believe him?"
According to the Wall Street Journal,
the Vatican and China look set to sign a landmark agreement later this month intended to reunite China's state-backed Catholic
church with the "underground" church that is still loyal to Rome, and which operates without official state approval.
While the deal could still fall through or be delayed by "unforeseen events," it could mean that Beijing
recognizes the pope as the head of the Catholic Church in China, the paper said.
Such a concession would be matched
by the recognition and rehabilitation of seven Chinese bishops who were excommunicated by the pope after being appointed by
Beijing without the approval of the Vatican, it said.
A deal seems likely
Ling-hsin, chairman of the journalism department at Taiwan Ming Chuan University, said the reports come amid indications from
a number of reliable media outlets in recent months that a deal is likely.
He said he believed that the Holy
See would never break diplomatic relations with any country, but that any religious deal could be seen as a semi-diplomatic
But Yang Sen-hong, president of the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights, said there was no
compatibility between the world views of Beijing and the Vatican.
"There is a war of values between atheism
and God, and it can't possibly come to anything worthwhile," Yang told RFA. "China has been putting out fake news
with the aim of confusing the world, as they always do."
Sources told RFA in May that China's newly amended
Religious Affairs Regulations had sparked a fresh round of persecution of religious believers, throwing the future of any
deal into doubt.
The Vatican had been hoping to eliminate the division between bishops and churches recognized
by the government-backed Catholic Patriotic Association and those appointed by Rome, which would result in an expansion of
the Catholic Church in China.
But a group of leading Catholics in Hong Kong and the U.S. said in an open letter
that they were "deeply shocked and disappointed" by the moves, citing church articles as saying that the right to
nominate and appoint bishops belongs only to the Church, and not to any secular body such as the atheist Chinese Communist
The letter said that religious persecution continues unabated under the administration of President Xi
Jinping amid heavy-handed controls by religious affairs officials, and that any deal could affect the Church's "holiness
and moral integrity."
Making religion 'more Chinese'
Catholic church members
in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi and in northern Hebei province told RFA last month that Catholic churches are being
swept up in a nationwide campaign to make religions more "Chinese," and more loyal to the ruling party's ideology.
In August, churches in Jiangxi's Fenyi county and Hebei's Luzhou diocese were ordered to display the Chinese national
flag and a portrait of President Xi Jinping in their main meeting area, as well as handing out government propaganda on "socialist
values" to their members, prompting an outcry among believers.
Priests of the Luzhou Diocese signed an open
letter to the Communist Party's United Front Work Department and the State Bureau of Religious Affairs in Beijing, calling
for an explanation.
A Catholic churchgoer in Luzhou said that he supported the priests, but declined to comment
"Of course this is happening," the churchgoer said in an interview conducted on Aug. 23. "We
don't agree with it, because there are a lot of issues involved, but I don't want to answer you on the phone."
Repeated calls to the State Bureau of Religious Affairs rang unanswered during office hours at the time of the interview.
Beijing asserts that all religions are subordinate to the Chinese Communist Party within China's borders, and that
religious believers must "be subordinate to and serve the overall interests of the nation and the Chinese people ...
and support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party."
Officially an atheist country, China has an
army of officials whose job is to watch over faith-based activities, which have spread rapidly in recent decades.
Party officials are put in charge of Catholics, Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, and Protestants. Judaism isn't recognized,
and worship in non-recognized temples, churches, or mosques is against the law.