The holidays are here, and a fascinating country to visit is China unless you’re Christian and want to celebrate Christmas. This may be a dangerous undertaken judging from the number of churches destroyed, Christians attacked and kidnapped by Chinese authorities.
Christians are about to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ all over the world, including in the Peoples Republic of China.
Tourists from China are seen all over the globe and are in control of many foreign tourism communities and their economies. Most tourism economies in Christian dominated destinations love Chinese tourists. One of the attractions for Chinese tourists overseas is the celebration of this Holiday week. At home, China’s leadership said no do Christmas.
As Christmas approaches, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continue to intensify their control over religious activities. Churches that belong to the state-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement have been ordered to apply for permits from varying levels of government institutions, including the Religious Affairs Bureau if they want to celebrate Christmas in their places of worship.
China’s apparent crackdown on Christianity is obvious, as the ruling Community party continues to intensify its control over religious freedom in the country.
Churches were raided and demolished, Bibles and holy books were confiscated and new laws were established to monitor religious activities in the country’s province of Henan, which has one of the largest Christian populations in China.
As reported by WDR Radio, kids are taken from their Christian parents if they refuse to mark “no religion” on their registration cards.
Under President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, believers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country undergoes a religious revival.
A few days ago, the person in charge of a Three-Self church in Houling township, in Henan Province’s Yongcheng city in central China, complained: “Just to celebrate Christmas, the church needs to obtain stamps of approval from several departments; otherwise, we cannot observe it.”
According to sources, unlike in previous years, this church began all the necessary preparations for Christmas as early as November. The person in charge of the church explained: “This year, the government is demanding that in order to observe Christmas, churches must obtain approval from the Religious Affairs Bureau, so we applied early on.”
However, the application process has not been smooth. At present, the church is still waiting for the results. The person in charge said helplessly: “After village officials approved the application, we faced obstruction when trying to get an approval stamp from the township government; they were very unwilling to do so. Afterward, through a great deal of effort and connections, the application has been approved. But we still need to get over the final hurdle, which is the municipal Religious Affairs Bureau: only after we receive our application with the Bureau’s stamp on it, this means that we have their consent, and this goal can be deemed as accomplished.”
This new policy to control celebration of Christmas has caused believers to feel both angry and helpless. One of them said bluntly: “Just to observe Christmas, church representatives have to run around getting stamps. This is the government’s means of controlling and persecuting religious belief.”
Meanwhile, another Three-Self church in Houling township also encountered the same situation.
It is learned that this church also submitted applications to various government departments in November. The person in charge of the church said: “For the time being, the church is stable in its appearance. Next, the government will take measures to control the church; they won’t ease up. Now, to observe Christmas is so difficult; and an application must be submitted to multiple levels (of government). Stamps need to be obtained from the village committee, the township government, and the municipal Religious Affairs Bureau. It is unclear what kind of suppression we will encounter in the future.”
He also revealed that in the past, churches did not need to apply for permission to observe Christmas. Besides, several churches would celebrate Christmas together, sometimes, for several days in a row. For this year’s Christmas, even if approval is received from the authorities, churches still face all kinds of restrictions. For example, Christmas activities can only be held on December 25, and minors are prohibited from participating in celebrations religious performances.
This year, apart from intensifying their control over Protestant Three-Self churches holding Christmas events, the CCP authorities are also continuing to launch various campaigns to “boycott Christmas” and “reject foreign religions.” Public security departments across China have issued bans, “prohibiting all Christmas-related decorations and activities.” On December 15, the Urban Management Bureau of Hebei Province’s Langfang city issued an “enforcement” notice, stipulating that people are not allowed to place Christmas trees, lights or other related items along the streets and strictly prohibiting stores from holding promotional events during Christmas season.
Pastor Liu Yi, the founder of the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness in San Francisco, the United States, said when speaking on the matter: “It can be summed up in one sentence: Get rid of all Christmas-related things and prohibit the people from celebrating Christmas.”
The majority of Christian persecution in China is experienced by a small group of Christians from Muslim or Tibetan Buddhist backgrounds. Muslim and Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders are still quite influential in the autonomous provinces of Xinjian and Tibet. In these communities, conversion is seen as much more than changing one’s religion –rather, it is a complete betrayal of the community and one’s family. Parents and the community at large heavily persecute known Christians. Another persecution driver is the Communist government, which limits freedoms. Christians, in particular, are hedged in by authorities, as they are the largest social force in China not controlled by the state.
While the distinction between government-registered and unregistered churches used to be a major factor in whether or not they were persecuted, this is no longer the case. All Christians are slandered, which seems to support the widely held belief that the Communist Party is banking on a unified Chinese cultural identity to maintain its power. When converts from Islam or Tibetan Buddhism are discovered by their families or communities, they are usually threatened, violently harmed and reported to local authorities. Spouses are sometimes forced to divorce their Christian partners, and some children are taken from their Christian parents. Public baptisms are impossible, and events such as weddings and burials involving known Christians are denied by imams and lamas.
In August 2017, several buildings belonging to a Catholic church in the Shanxi province were destroyed, despite efforts by church members to protect them. Homes of believers were raided and belongings confiscated in Guangdong, Xinjiang and Anhui. Churches have been raided as well, and landlords renting premises to churches have been pressured to terminate such contracts.
The crackdown on Christianity is part of a broader push by Xi to ‘Sinicise’ all the nation’s religions by infusing them with ‘Chinese characteristics’ such as loyalty to the Communist Party. Over the last several months, local governments across the country have shut down hundreds of private Christian ‘house churches.
House churches are forced to change locations to avoid being closed down by Chinese authorities, making the life of senior Christians extremely difficult.
Chinas leadership is not only controlling religious believes, but its controlling tourism not only in China but more and more making tourism destinations dependent on their politics and rewarding destinations with tourists. This reward doesn’t come without a price, and it comes faster than anticipated.
Here is a list of the top US Christmas destinations also for visiting Chinese tourists.