Chinese authorities warn Christians not to celebrate Christmas – Radio Free Asia

Police and religious affairs officials across China are warning tens of millions of Christians across the country not to gather to celebrate Christmas, many citing the coronavirus pandemic, RFA has learned.

The pastor of an unofficial Protestant “house church” in southern China’s Guangdong province, who only gave the surname Chen, said local police contacted him on the 22nd. December to make sure his church wasn’t planning anything.

“In our city, we do not have the right Christmas gatherings, not even parties, “Chen said.” This also happens in Henan [province] and other places, using the pandemic as a pretext. “

“We can only meet online now.”

The pastor of a church in eastern Shandong province, who only gave John’s name, said similar restrictions were in place where he lives.

“They warned us before Christmas that there are no activities [related to Christmas]”, he said.” It’s the same with some churches outside [town]. “

“We can only have underground activities.”

Meanwhile, government censors appeared to have erased references to the festival from social media platforms, as local officials in the southwestern Guangxi region warned elementary and secondary schools, students and parents not to not organize any. Christmas Activities.

“Foreign holidays”

According to a photo of the directive issued by the Rongan County Education Bureau, schools should refrain from celebrating “foreign festivals” and instead focus on traditional Chinese culture.

Some comments on an article on Sina Weibo confirming that the directive is genuine challenged this decision.

“What is the legal basis for this? User @Small_fish_bottle wanted to know, while @The_wind_blows added, “We want cultural self-confidence! Ban foreign products and foreign festivals!”

While some have agreed that Christmas shouldn’t be celebrated in schools, @Desperate_Corgi_with_Short_Legs asked, “And Chinese Christians haha.”

“So I wish the Rongan Education Office a happy Christmasjoked user @The First Princess of the Second Empire and her fixable SAMA, while @Yangliu Xixi Zhao Jiuzhou said the office “would probably favor it by banning it, which is a big mistake!”

While one user asked why everyone should be politicized, user @Xu Guanzi replied, “So-called political participation is actually a clapping machine. If you want to express real opinions, they think you are causing something. “

Bob Fu, chairman of the US Christian rights group ChinaAid, said the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will soon implement new regulations cracking down on all types of religious activity online, as well as in person.

Online checks from March 1

The administrative measures governing online religious content will take effect from 1st of March, 2022, he told RFA.

“Once again, they are using legalistic methods to restrict and undermine the religious freedoms of Chinese citizens,” Fu said. “Police and State Security Police will now intervene in the event of online religious activities, the next step in the CCP’s suppression of religious freedom.” “

The new rules govern all forms of religious content online, including video gatherings, training sessions, sermon videos or other preaching content, as well as fundraising “in the name of religion”.

The rules require police, state security police, internet censors, and religious affairs offices to “oversee and manage” all religious content online, which means religious gatherings held remotely could also soon be the target of the authorities.

Anyone providing religious content online will be required to hold a license, which will not be issued to anyone who has been targeted by local authorities for “illegal” religious activity in the past, a copy of the rules posted on the site. The Cyberspace Administration website said Dec. 20.

Licenses must be approved by religious affairs offices at the provincial level or higher, while no foreign organization or person will be allowed to produce religious content online in China, he said.

In particular, the rules prohibit “the use of religion to incite the subversion of state power … [or] oppose the CCP leadership. “

Content is also prohibited “to induce minors to believe in religion, or to organize or force minors to participate in religious activities”.

Anyone “impersonating” a cleric online will also be targeted, making unofficial house church pastors and lay preachers vulnerable to prosecution under the new rules.

“National security agencies must protect and deal with foreign institutions, organizations and individuals, as well as domestic institutions, organizations and individuals in collusion with foreign institutions, organizations and individuals, to use religion to carry out activities that endorse danger to national security on the Internet “, indicates the draft regulation.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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