The Communist Party of China is, at least on a local level, trying to convince Chinese Christians to put their faith in the government to cure their illnesses and alleviate their poverty.
Local officials in villages in southeastern China have told villagers to take down pictures of Jesus and replace them with images of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the South China Morning Post and the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Ten percent of Yugan County in Jiangxi Province is Christian. Poverty is rampant in the area, with more than 11 percent of the one million residents living below the poverty line. A local social media account for the Huangjinbu township reported that officials visited poverty-stricken families to offer assistance. The report claimed the officials “melted the hard ice in their hearts” and “transformed them from believing in religion to believing in the party.”
More than 600 villagers reportedly “volunteered” to take down Christian images and gospel writings and replace them with over 450 images of Xi. The related report has disappeared, but the campaign was confirmed by the Post.
“Help turn those who believe in religions into believing in the Party” pic.twitter.com/dKXnmX1KK8
— Yaqiu Wang (@Yaqiu) November 13, 2017
Local Christians claim that the shift definitely is not voluntary, noting that the government will only provide financial support if the residents agree to abandon their religious beliefs.
“Some families put up gospel couplets on their front doors during the Lunar New Year; some also hung paintings of the cross. But, they’ve all been torn down,” a local resident surnamed Liu revealed, “They all have their belief and, of course, they didn’t want to take them down. But there is no way out. If they don’t agree to do so, they won’t be given their quota from the poverty-relief fund.”
In October, officials in Yugan discussed a “sense of crisis” about the growth of religion in the area, according to an official government website.
The campaign has been ongoing since March, Qi Yan, chairman of the Huangjinbu people’s congress and head of the township’s poverty-relief drive, introduced. The aim, he explained, is to teach Christians how much the CPC is doing for them. “Many poor households have plunged into poverty because of illness in the family. Some resorted to believing in Jesus to cure their illnesses,” he said, “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.”
“Many rural people are ignorant. They think God is their savior,” Qi argued, “After our officials’ work, they’ll realize their mistakes and think: we should no longer rely on Jesus, but on the party for help.”
He said that the town had distributed more than 1,000 images of the Chinese president to local residents.
Xi has emerged as one of the strongest Chinese leaders in decades, entrenching himself in Chinese politics as the “core” of the CPC. Not only does he hold over a dozen titles, he has also incorporated his political ideology into the constitution, making him unassailable. The president has created a clear cult of personality — one reminiscent of Chairman Mao Zedong — around himself.
As Chinese Christians are believed to outnumber the 90 million CPC members, the government has become increasingly wary of religious ideologies that could undermine state authority.
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