Stories of anti-Christian sentiment in China are nothing new, though a disturbing new report certainly creates a new round of concern and speculation about what might be happening in at least some regions of the country.
Local officials in the southeastern portion of China have reportedly told residents to remove signs pertaining to Jesus and to, instead, post images of President Xi Jinping, the nation’s leader.
And, according to the Post, one social media account claimed that 624 Christian-themed posters were taken down and replaced with 453 images of Xi. The general message and sentiment being sent, according to the Washington Post, is that “Jesus won’t save you.”
The South China Morning Post — which reported that it confirmed that this campaign has been underway — actually quotes one official who openly said that people should drop Jesus and, instead, pledge support to the Communist Party.
“Help turn those who believe in religions into believing in the Party” pic.twitter.com/dKXnmX1KK8
— Yaqiu Wang (@Yaqiu) November 13, 2017
Qi Yan, an official in charge of local poverty relief efforts in Huangjinbu, said that many of the people in the rural areas of the country are “ignorant” and assume that God will save them.
He said that 1,000 photos of Xi have been distributed and that they have been hung in peoples’ homes. Qi also had plenty to say about the ignorance that he perceives in Christians.
“They think God is their savior … After our cadres’ work, they’ll realize their mistakes and think: we should no longer rely on Jesus, but on the party for help,” Qi told the outlet. “Many poor households have plunged into poverty because of illness in the family. Some resorted to believing in Jesus to cure their illnesses. But we tried to tell them that getting ill is a physical thing and that the people who can really help them are the Communist Party and General Secretary Xi.”
At least one resident of another local area told the Morning Post said that the religious signs have been forcefully removed and that some families must take them down if they wish to receive their portion of poverty relief funds.
Qi, though, seemed to push back against these claims.
“We only asked them to take down [religious] posters in the centre of the home. They can still hang them in other rooms, we won’t interfere with that,” he said. “What we require is for them not to forget about the party’s kindness at the centre of their living rooms. They still have the freedom to believe in religion, but in their minds they should [also] trust our party.”
China is currently ranked by Open Doors USA’s World Watch List as the 39th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution. A report on the subject noted that “Christians are the largest social force in China not controlled by the Communist Party” and, as a result, “there are increasing efforts to bring them under state control.”