China is striking the “final blow to religious liberty” with new administrative measures set to take place in February with total submission to the Chinese Communist Party, according to a watchdog group, Fox News reports.
The country’s state-run media announced the new “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups” on Dec. 30. That same day, Pastor Wang Yi of Chengdu’s Early Rain Covenant Church, one of the most well-known leaders in the House Church movement, was sentenced to nine years in jail for “inciting subversion of state power,” raising concern for Chinese Christians.
Bitter Winter, a watchdog on religious liberty and human rights in China, said the situation for religious groups is going from “bad to worse.”
“In practice, your religion no longer matters, if you are Buddhist, or Taoist, or Muslim or Christian,” a Chinese Catholic priest told AsiaNews. “The only religion allowed is faith in the Chinese Communist Party.”
The new rules encompass every aspect of religious life, from formation to daily activities, which must be approved by the Communist government. This is set to complete the “Regulations on religious affairs” revised two years ago and implemented on Feb. 1, 2018, by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Religious organizations must adhere to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, observe the constitution, laws, regulations, ordinances, and policies, adhere to the principle of independence and self-government, adhere to the directives on religions in China, implementing the values of socialism,” Article 5 of the new policies states.
The new rules also say “religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party,” as well as requiring “religious personnel and religious citizens to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, supporting the socialist system, adhering to and following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
One law, Article 17, states: “Religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as national laws, regulations, rules to religious personnel and religious citizens, educating religious personnel and religious citizens to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, supporting the socialist system, adhering to and following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics…”
Manuscripts from each religion are also not immune to censorship. The Daily Mail reports that the Communist Party intends to complete a “comprehensive evaluation of the existing religious classics aiming at contents which do not conform to the progress of the times.”
As Christian Headlines previously reported, this means that books such as the Bible or the Quran will be rewritten to “reflect socialist values” and any paragraphs that the government deems “wrong” will be changed.
“In many ways, the Chinese government’s control, including censorship of the Bible and the Quran, has twisted the doctrines of these religious texts and thus the religions,” said Patrick Poon, a China Researcher at Amnesty International. “There is simply no genuine religious freedom.”
The new laws come after finishing off 2019 with the “worst religious persecution in the country’s history,” according to the Federalist. A pastor of house church Early Rain Covenant Church, Wang Yi, caught international attention last year when he was arrested and later sentenced to nine years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal business activities.” His family wasn’t even sure if he was alive until they heard about his sentencing.
Yi released a letter called “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience” while in prison, declaring that he will not give in to the pressure.
“Regardless of what crime the government charges me with, whatever filth they file at me, as long as this charge is related to my faith, my writings, my comments, and my teachings, it is merely a lie and temptation of demons. I categorically deny it. I will serve my sentence, but I will not serve the law. I will be executed, but I will not plead guilty.”
Despite the crackdown, experts estimate by 2030 that the Christian population, at 100 million — compared to 90 million members of CCP — is set to grow to 250 million. This comes as China has been accused of putting up to one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in labor camps in the northwest of the country for “re-education.”
The Trump Administration has criticized China for its treatment of Muslims and Christians and has called on other countries to join in condemnation of human rights abuses.