March 12, 2019
BEIJING (Reuters) – Western forces are trying to use Christianity to influence China’s society and even subvert the government, a senior official said, warning that Chinese Christians needed to follow a Chinese model of the religion.
China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, but since President Xi Jinping took office six years ago, the government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the ruling Communist Party.
The government has cracked down on underground churches, both Protestant and Catholic, even as it seeks to improve relations with the Vatican.
In a speech on Monday, Xu Xiaohong head of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, said there were many problems with Christianity in the country, including “infiltration” from abroad and “private meeting places”.
“It must be recognized that our movement’s surname is ‘China’ and not ‘Western’,” Xu said, according to remarks reported by the United Front Work Department, which is in charge of co-opting non-communists, ethnic minorities and religious groups.
“Anti-China forces in the West are trying to continue to influence China’s social stability and even subvert our country’s political power through Christianity, and it is doomed to fail,” he said, speaking to the Chinese parliament’s largely ceremonial advisory body.
“For individual black sheep who, under the banner of Christianity, participate in subverting national security, we firmly support the country to bring them to justice.”
Only by eliminating the “stigma of foreign religion” in China’s Christianity can its believers benefit society, he added.
“Only by continually drawing on the fine traditions of Chinese culture, can China’s Christianity be rooted in the fertile soil of Chinese culture and become a religion recognized by the Chinese themselves,” Xu added.
“Only by continuously carrying forward and practicing the core values of socialism can our Christianity truly be suited to socialist society.”
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)