Increasing actions against religion, from arrests to deportation to anti-Christmas propaganda, aim to forestall a Soviet-style regime collapse.
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members are cracking down on religious groups at an increasing rate. In seeking to explain the pressure placed on believers, analysts point to one main fear on the part of the authorities: that religion could be the catalyst for a popular uprising, and thus must be stamped out.

One of the most common charges is that believers are “fraternizing with foreigners” and “subverting state power.”

In 2018, the CCP cracked down on house churches across China for “fraternization with foreigners.” According to internal documents, last year in Xinxiang city, in Henan province in central China, the municipality handled cases of 127 religious people, accusing them of fraternization with foreigners. Among those arrested was a Japanese missionary who was later deported.

Christian groups with Korean backgrounds have faced even more comprehensive attacks. A document entitled Special Work Program for Investigation into and Prosecution of the Infiltration of Korean Christianity According to the Law was issued in March 2018, by a city in Liaoning province near the North Korean border. The document calls for attacks against Korean Christian individuals and organizations engaging in “infiltration activities,” the obstruction of the primary channels of communication of Korean Christian groups and the prevention of sending believers to events in neighboring countries.

On October 17, at a conference dedicated to religious affairs in Botou city, in Hebei Province in northern China, government officials claimed that they were attacking Korean Christianity because Korea was being influenced by the USA and becoming a Christian power. Furthermore, they claimed that the next goal of the USA would be to exploit Christianity to take control of China and that Korea was just a jumping-off point in their plan.

The conference also connected religious issues to China-US relations. It was claimed that, in the ongoing trade war between China and the US, foreign powers were attempting to destroy China through religion. Taiping Rebellion, a political and religious upheaval that lasted for 14 years (1850–64), took an estimated 20 million lives, and altered the Qing dynasty (1644–1911/12), was cited as an example that subversion of state power usually occurs in the name of religion and that religious groups all have specific political objectives. Speakers offered this view of Christianity as the reason to suppress the church.

After the US Congress mentioned the persecution of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) at an event last year, on January 29, Hong Kong’s Ta Kung Pao newspaper, a media mouthpiece for the CCP, released an article in retaliation. It reported, “Amidst a deadlock in China-US relations, the US Congress has placed The Church of Almighty God on the international political stage with the intent of attacking China,” and that they are “using freedom of religion to attack the Chinese government.” The conflating of religious issues and China-US political relations is undeniable.

In September 2018, at a United Front Work Department (UFWD) meeting in Lanzhou city, in Gansu Province in the northwest of China, the secretary of the district party committee Wei Jinwen stated, “Religious tasks are political tasks. When the populace faces problems, it doesn’t seek out the government, but rather goes to imams. Some people depend on [state] medical insurance for medical care while thanking Jesus for it. If things go on like this, it will weaken the foundation of the party’s power, as well as the stability of the regime.” Mr. Wei also suggested that Arabic architecture poses hidden dangers of affecting national unity and social stability.

Apart from inserting religion into international political disputes, authorities see believers as the seed of a future “Color Revolution” in China. According to a document that Bitter Winter previously exposed, the CCP has advocated “resistance of infiltration activities of foreign religions” and “prevention and handling of xie jiao” as priorities to avoid a Color Revolution in China. The prevention and mitigation of Color Revolution has been declared the Ministry of Public Security’s primary task to maintain regime stability for 2019.

The numbers of those arrested and detained suggest how seriously China is taking the religious “threat” to its existence. In the name of combatting separatism and terrorism, the CCP has been imprisoning Uyghurs in droves, and detaining house church leaders such as pastor Wang Yi from the Early Rain Covenant Church on charges of “incitement to subvert state power.”

Even Christmas has not escaped the CCP’s fury, as propaganda against “threatening” western holidays escalates. Christmas is sometimes called a “holiday of national humiliation,” even conflating Christianity with the Eight-Nation alliance invasion of China. (The Eight-Nation Alliance is the Chinese term for the coordinated invasion of eight powers to suppress the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.)

Some commentators say the CCP’s treatment of religious belief as a dangerous force that could subvert state power has origins in the recent past.

Reportedly, after the massacre at Tiananmen Square, the CCP dispatched scholars to Eastern Europe to understand the cause of the destruction of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. They concluded that religion had been the single most important factor in mobilizing the masses against the Communist Parties in several Eastern European countries. This conclusion had a far-reaching influence on the top leaders of the CCP. They now believe that the West succeeded in destroying the Soviet Union and the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe by using religion as a weapon. Therefore, the CCP must crack down on religion so that China may avoid the fate of the Soviet Union.

Reported by Wang Anyang