2018 was the start of a 5 year government plan in China to sinicize Christianity. The government’s ultimate objective for this plan is to sanitize Christianity in order to better reflect Chinese socialist views and culture. This sweeping tide of change came at the heel of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s declaration in 2017 after abolishing term limits for the Chinese presidency, in which he stated that religions could operate only if they were “Chinese in orientation” and that Beijing “must provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt themselves to socialist society”.
This 5 year sinicization plan then promptly kicked off in early 2018, when the new religious policies, dubbed the “White Paper”, came into full effect on February 1st. These new policies in affect placed overbearing limitations on church operations and congregational gatherings.
According to government guidelines:
- All religious activities are to be carried out in an orderly manner.
- Mandatory registration of Christians and churches.
- Ban of certain demographic groups in entering church buildings and attending church activities.
In March, the State Administration for Religious Affairs formally released the document called Principle for Promoting the Chinese Christianity in China for the Next Five Years. According to this document, the major goal for 2018 was to enhance the integration of Christian theology with socialist views and Chinese culture by way of reinterpreting the Bible and changing its narrative in order to “harmonize” with government objectives.
Promptly afterwards in April, online shoppers begin to notice the disappearance of Bibles from online stores including Taobao and Jingdong. Where, searching for key words for Bible came up with “no results”, or if it was found people could not add it into their carts. A major speculation from the online community about why Bibles have been removed from the stores was that it is in preparation for the eventual release of the state-sanctioned version of the Bible.
For the remainder of 2018, both local and national action in accordance to this 5 year sinicization plan saw to crosses and Bible quotes removed or replaced with pictures of president Xi and socialist ideals. Liang Zhang, a house church pastor in Henan’s Shanghai city, stated that government officials came into the church and demanded articles relating to the Bible and faith such as a banner saying “For God, so loved the world” to be removed. Furthermore, Pastor Zhang said that these officials later on asked the church to “tear down things about Sunday School for Kids” and then installing “information officers” to observe and report any anti-government sentiments or threats to social stability within the church. As our C2C team in China also reported that surveillance cameras had been installed in church buildings, as well as preaching conferences being held in various cities for the purpose of re-educating church leaders.
This first year of sinicization then ended on a sour note as several Chinese cities bans Christmas decorations and celebrations in December. They even tried to alter public opinion on Christmas by re-writing its history. A story circulated that Christmas was in actuality a “Western” celebration to commemorate the Eight Nation Alliance victory on the invasion of China in 1900. These nations included Britain, US, Russia, Germany, France, Austro-Hungary, Italy, and Japan.
Now in 2019, it seems that sinicization is ramping up within China’s local governments. In the county of Tanghe, a public notice was seen posted which in effect encourage towns people to spy on their neighbors and rewards them with $200RMB for reporting illegal religious gatherings. Furthermore, it warns of the penalty for these gatherings will be a fine of $20,000-$200,000 RMB which is $3,000 to $30,000 USD, and be placed into re-education.
This public notice in its entirety states:
Public Notice 2019/1/28
According to the “Regulation on Religious Affair” article sixty-nine and seventy-one: setting up any places of religious activities without authorization, providing conditions for violating religious activities, if the circumstances are serious, violators will be fined RMB 20000-200000.
For public supervision, anyone who reports any gathering without authorization rewards a prize of RMB 200 once its confirmed (reporters’ identities will be kept confidential). For those who post religious messages should be stopped immediately and be re-educated. For those who provide facilities for illegal religious activities, will be punished or will be fined 20,000-200,000. For the serious offender will be prosecuted by the police department. We welcome the general public to spy/observe and report.
From the 10th district office of Tanghe county
2019 seems to be another year of turbulence for our brothers and sisters in Christ within China. We ask that you will keep them in your prayers everyday, especially as the Chinese government prepares to publish their own version of the Bible that will twist the word of God to fit their own socialist views.