China appears to be strengthening its controls over Christian religious publications that are approved for release by the state.
The Chinese Communist Party bans many religious texts and other books considered subversive. However, it does permit some Christian groups to give out religious literature that meets the requirements of the country’s censors.
China Aid is a Christian non-governmental organization. It says censors have begun removing the words “Christ” and “Jesus” from some publications. Other experts say Christians themselves may be replacing the words in the text on their own. They may be trying to avoid online censors who may be blocking the words from reaching online readers.
Government moves against churches
The controls of Chinese officials over Christians go beyond censoring religious publications. In recent years, there have been an increasing number of Christian religious centers, or churches, and large crosses that have been destroyed by the government. Officials say the structures violated rules.
Xu Yonghai is a pastor at a family church in Beijing. Xu told VOA that the Chinese Communist Party has been targeting government-approved churches for years now.
Xu said that during former President Jiang Zemin’s term the official churches “had never been under pressure. But since 2014, the government starts to restrict both underground churches and official churches,” he said. Xu added that this shows China is tightening religious controls and pushing communism.
During the same time period, the Vatican has continued its engagement with the Chinese Communist Party. There are some Catholics who say the Church’s willingness to work with the officials has not improved their own religious freedom. They say this is especially the case for believers who attend underground churches.
This month the Vatican confirmed that the Pope had approved an agreement with China on a process which remains secret. The process is for approving high church officials called bishops in the country. The Vatican has defended the measure as necessary to growing the church there.
But in China, there are Catholics who object. Zhang is a Catholic in China’s southwest Yunnan Province. He told VOA it is a betrayal on the part of the pope. He said that he believes it is a sin to negotiate and compromise on holy matters such as the appointment of bishops with the Chinese Communist Party.
Pastor Xu said he understands the problem the Vatican faces.
“I think they are well-intended because engagement means that more Chinese people will know about Christ,” he said. “Yet the situation in China is just so special.”
Wang is a Catholic from China’s central Sha’anxi Province. He said the Pope’s action was a great “betrayal.”
Restriction on Muslims
China has been condemned by the international community for its suppression of Muslims in Xinjiang province. It is estimated that at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs Muslims are being held in government detention camps. But the campaign against Muslims is not only in Xinjiang.
This month, Beijing announced severe rules for all Muslims in China who wish to visit Saudi Arabia for the religious observance known as the hajj pilgrimage.
The National Religious Affairs Administration issued a new set of rules last Monday. It stated that all travel to Saudi Arabia must be planned by the Islamic Association of China. That organization is controlled by the communist party’s international arm, the United Front Work Department. Independent personal pilgrimages are not permitted, the administration said.
Some traditional religious buildings, or temples, are also being torn down.
The Italy-based publication Bitter Winter is an online magazine that discusses religious freedom and human rights in China. It reported that in China’s Linzhou City in central Henan Province, more than 90 folk temples were destroyed.
More than 100 new structures were built within a month. They were activity centers for the old, farmers’ night schools and volunteer service centers and other buildings. The city's actions to remove places of folk beliefs are considered a sign of local government’s political correctness.
I’m Mario Ritter Jr.
Shen Hua reported this story for VOA NEWS. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.
Words in This Story
text – n. the written words
censor –n. a person who examines media such as books and removes things believed to be offensive or harmful
pastor –n. a minister or cleric who is in charge of a church or parish
engagement –n. the act of being involved in something
betrayal –n. to hurt someone who trusts you by not helping them or doing something that is wrong
sin –n. something considered wrong by religious or moral law
intended –adj. related to things that are thought of as a purpose or goal (but that may not become reality)
hajj pilgrimage – n. a lifetime trip required by all Muslims to visit Mecca in Saudi Arabia
temple – n. a place of religious worship
folk – adj. ethnic or regional customs, usually of rural people
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