Under the Chinese Communist Party, there truly is nothing sacred. A report from National Review details that Chinese authorities have altered the famous Bible verse where Jesus forgives a woman who commits adultery, instead rewriting the story so that Jesus himself stones her to death . This is not only an egregious affront to the sacred text that Christians hold dear, but it is also one of many offenses committed by the CCP against persons of faith as the Party seeks to bring religion under state control.
For the Communist Party, the Sinicization of religion, codified in the 2018 “Regulations for Religious Affairs”, is part of a national strategy to heighten state power. Religious minorities across China have been subject to crackdowns from the local government for decades. In school, Chinese children are taught that religion is a “feudal superstition” that is both regressive and defunct. Moreover, the Party’s Constitution forbids religious believers from joining, and the Constitution narrowly approves religious activities as those that specifically support the government and its policies.
Christianity has not been exempted from the long arm of Chinese authorities. Churches that operate outside of government approval, termed “house churches”, have been closed by officials and defaced according to local leaders. Entire congregations have been forced to disband for not meeting the 2020 “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups”while youth ministries and Sunday schools have been banned entirely. Most worryingly, Beijing is trying to implement registration and oversight initiatives that give the party influence over Christian thought.
More so than by animus against religion, the Chinese government is motivated primarily by a fear of how religious organizations can threaten Party control. Scarred by the internal strife that crippled China in the 19th Century, the CCP is determined to prevent “external influence” from escaping the control of government authorities. The CCP, ever wary of western imperialism and the loss of sovereignty that China experienced in its Century of Humiliation, has rewritten the Chinese playbook to be vigilant against any beliefs that originate from authorities outside of Beijing’s control. Of the five poisons identified by the CCP as potential dangers to national unity, three are religious groups. For the Party, anything that does not identify Beijing as the highest authority presents a threat, and thus religion is a natural target.
With the dramatic growth of the Christian population in China to 97,000,000 in the past decade, it is likely that the CCP will add a sixth poison to the list. The United States should take action to underscore its commitment to the protection of all religious minorities in China, including Protestant Christians. An earlier Heritage report called for the release of Pastor Wang, who was detained in December 2019 after the underground church he pastored, Early Rain Covenant Church, was shut down in 2018. Prioritizing the release and protection of religious prisoners of all stripes, in addition to leveraging diplomatic and economic levers, will be crucial to the U.S. response to Chinese violations of religious freedom.
As the United States struggles with a contentious election and deep division at home, it is important to remember our commitment to the freedom and prosperity of those beyond our borders. Protecting believers of all religions is rooted in our founding values, cemented by bipartisan law codified in 1998. America is at its best when we continue to strive to protect and preserve human dignity wherever it can be done. The egregious subversion of religious practice in China should both remind us of the legacy, and duty, that we carry.
Jonathan Tao is from Naperville, Illinois and is studying Economics and Political Science.