Magazine article The Christian Century

China Cracks Down on Protestants

Magazine article The Christian Century

China Cracks Down on Protestants

Article excerpt

Prospective Communist Party members in the region of China where Christianity is growing the fastest must renounce religious belief, and current party members must write letters stating their rejection of faith, according to a new mandate by authorities in Zhejiang Province.

The policy comes amid extended and systematic harassment of Protestant churches in Zhejiang. More than 450 church buildings have been desecrated or destroyed since November 2013. Chinese analysts quoted in state-run media say the new vetting of party members for religious belief is part of a larger campaign in Beijing against "hostile foreign forces" infiltrating China.

Wenzhou, the capital of Zhejiang, on the prosperous east coast, is sometimes referred to as "China's Jerusalem" for its high number of devout Protestants--at least 1 million in a city of 8 million. The area is known for its business acumen and overseas population.

Officially, Communist Party members have long been expected to embrace atheism and Marxism enthusiastically. But oversight of religious practice has been lax in many parts of China for the past 20 years, and in places like Zhejiang it has been an open secret that some families of party members are actively practicing Christianity.

Zhejiang officials spelled out the policy on January 29, according to the state-run Global Times, based in Beijing: "Checking on religious beliefs is the first step towards approving applicants to the Party, and Party members found to have participated in or embrace religions will be required to 'rectify' their beliefs."

For the first time, the attack on churches has gone beyond the large unofficial "house" church movement to reach the officially approved Protestant churches that are part of the Three Self Movement.

In December, a party-mandated ban on Christmas celebrations in Zhejiang was seen as an effort to single out Christians at a time when Beijing has been promoting Buddhist faith. …

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