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Earlier this week, the Chinese Communist Party released new rules for its 90 million party members, tightening religious restrictions and requiring complete loyalty to President Xi Jinping. The rules require party committees to “strengthen the ideological education of religious members,” and those who don’t change should be “persuaded to quit the party.” Members who attend “activities that use religion for incitement” would also be expelled.
The Chinese Communist Party has always been officially atheist, but some members have put their faith in Buddhism or Christianity. Although the total number of religious party members is unknown, the government’s constant reminders for them to stay out of religion means they exist in substantial numbers.
The directive states that anyone who “vilifies” the state and its leaders or distorts the history of the Chinese Communist Party will be punished. In this case, “history” refers to China’s version of history, and the new rules are representative of Xi’s new position as the party’s core leader. “Xi Jinping requires the whole party and the whole country to bow down before him,” political analyst Gao Xin told Radio Free Asia.
The Chinese government is intensifying its crackdown on Christianity in areas with a high concentration of Christians, such as Henan province in east-central China. In the past week, Henan authorities have evicted dozens of house churches, destroyed church buildings, and demolished the crosses atop government-sanctioned churches. Farther south in Xinyu County, Jiangxi province, authorities required churches to display the Chinese flag, a photo of President Xi, and posters about socialist values, according to Texas-based ChinaAid.
In the cities of Anyang in Henan and Ma’anshan in Anhui, authorities have forced some Christians to sign a document renouncing their faith. Chinese-American pastor Liu Yi tweeted a photo of the document, which states, “I understood Christianity only superficially. I merely followed a popular trend when I became a believer. Now that I have attended study sessions, I understand it better. … I have decided to no longer participate in Christian religious activities. I will no longer believe in Christianity.”
Christians are documenting the persecution: In one striking cell-phone video, flames engulf a red cross atop a government-sanctioned church in Henan while a crane with a wire wrapped around the cross attempts to pull it off. Another video showed police barging into Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church on Aug. 19th, demanding the pastor stop his sermon and claiming the building was not up to fire safety code. Pastor Huang Xiaoning agreed to go with them to the fire station after the service and continued preaching even as the officials stayed for another half-hour, ChinaAid reported.
In another video, parishioners at the Fuyang City Church clap and sing worship songs as a crane pulls out of the driveway of their eight-story church. According to ChinaAid’s Bob Fu, the crew had attempted to demolish the church’s cross, but the equipment malfunctioned. As the Christians worshipped loudly, the crane left the church and left the cross intact.
Earlier, as the crane stalled in front of the building, parishioners gathered to sing a hymn that has become a rallying cry since the government started demolishing crosses in the city of Wenzhou in 2014: “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross.”
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
From the cross my ransomed soul
Nothing then shall sever.
Tianjin explosion anniversary:
Aug. 12 marked three years after the devastating explosion in Tianjin’s Binhai New Area that killed 173 and injured around 800. The disaster seems all but forgotten since the Chinese government largely censored discussion of the event and quickly built over the affected area. But this video uses photographs, videos, and audio of eyewitness accounts to “document the lingering pain [and] to resist public forgetting and indifference.“