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China intensifies crackdown on places of worship

08 September 2023

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A FURTHER crackdown on places of worship came into force in China on 1 September, requiring all “religious venues” to give active support to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and implement President Xi Jinping’s policy of Sinicisation.

“No organization or individual may use religious activity sites to conduct activities that endanger national security, disrupt social order, [or] damage national interests,” the Measures on the Administration of Religious Activity dictates.

Managers of religious venues, who will be thoroughly vetted by religious-affairs officials, must “love the motherland and support the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the socialist system”, the measures say.

The content of sermons must “embody socialist core values”, and venues will have to engage in “nationalist and patriotic education”.

Venues will no longer be allowed to be extended, and there is a ban on accepting teaching posts from overseas religious groups or institutions without prior authorisation, and on accepting donations from overseas.

Release International, which campaigns for persecuted Christians, said that the new regulations were “designed to eliminate the visible presence of Christianity in China”. More than 1500 crosses have been torn down from authorised churches in one Chinese province alone, and this is set to escalate.

Religious venues can no longer be named after churches, denominations, or individuals. Churches have been ordered to remove signs referring to Jesus, Christ, Emmanuel, and Jehovah.

“China is one of the worst oppressors of Christianity in the world, and has just announced a tightening of the screws designed to eliminate the visible presence of Christianity in China,” the chief executive of Release International, Paul Robinson, said. Despite the crackdown, he continued, Christianity was still growing in China, through underground and unregistered churches.

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