by WorldTribune Staff, September 23, 2018
As the Vatican nears a landmark deal with Beijing that has been denounced as the betrayal of faithful Catholics, the Chinese Communist Party has turned up the intensity of its war on religion.
The Beijing government recently shut down the nation’s largest Christian “house church”, set fire to bibles and crosses, and forced Christians to sign papers renouncing their faith, according to pastors and a group that monitors religion in China.
Activists say that as he consolidates power, supreme leader Xi Jinping “is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982,” the Daily Mail noted in a report earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the Vatican has reportedly agreed to a deal which would grant China the right to nominate future bishops. The deal will likely end the diplomatic relationship between the Vatican and Taiwan that began in 1942.
The Vatican currently recognizes Taiwan as the official representative of faithful Catholics in China.
The crackdown on Christianity also comes amid China’s political indoctrination of Muslims in alleged re-education camps.
Pastor Bob Fu of the U.S.-based group China Aid, said the closure of churches in central Henan province and a prominent house church in Beijing in recent weeks represents a “significant escalation” of the crackdown.
Fu posted video footage of what appeared to be piles of burning bibles and crosses in Henan on his Twitter account. He also provided forms stating that the signatories had renounced their Christian faith.
Fu “said that marked the first time since Mao’s 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution that Christians had been compelled to make such declarations, under pain of expulsion from school and the loss of welfare benefits,” the Daily Mail report said.
On Sept. 9, the Zion church was shut down by some 60 government workers, according to the church’s pastor, Ezra Jin Mingri. Zion is known as the largest house church in Beijing, with six branches.
A notice posted on the website of the Chaoyang district government in Beijing said the Zion Church had been closed because it failed to register with the government.
“Churches will continue to develop. Blocking the sites will only intensify conflicts,” Jin told The Associated Press.
Rights groups say an estimated one million Uighurs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the country’s northwest have been detained in re-education camps where they are forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the Communist Party.
Omir Bekali and Kayrat Samarkand, both former detainees, told The Washington Post in May that the prisoners were punished by being forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, which are forbidden in Islam.
Kairat Samarkand, said to be a former detainee in a re-education camp, is quoted by Human Rights Watch as saying the Chinese government wanted to “exterminate Muslim people, Muslim writing and Muslim dress.”
Human Rights Watch said in a 117-page report released on Sept. 10 that 13 million Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Province are subject to political indoctrination, collective punishment, restrictions on movement and communications, heightened religious restrictions, and mass surveillance in violation of international human rights law.
Li Xiaojun, director for publicity at China’s Bureau of Human Rights Affairs of the State Council Information Office, told reporters at the United Nations on Sept. 13 that “What China is doing is to establish professional training centers, educational centers. To put it straight, it’s like vocational training … like your children go to vocational-training schools to get better skills and better jobs after graduation.”
Sophie Richardson, the China Director of Human Rights Watch, told MailOnline: “The Chinese government has long treated any organized religious groups with disdain and hostility. It doesn’t matter if it is Christianity, Islam or Buddhism, it considers them as a vehicle and mechanism to carry out political disloyalty and separatism.”