New Chinese Decree Forces Religious Leaders To Actively Support Communist Party

China has rolled out with a new policy which requires all religious leaders in the country to show open support to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The new decree goes into effect May 1 and orders all religious heads, including Christian pastors and bishops, to “follow the lead of and support the Communist Party.”

While Chinese state interference in religious affairs of citizens is far from anything new, this particular decree appears far reaching and is also aimed at rooting out “foreign” influence, with significant legal repercussions that are threatened.

Government-approved Catholic Mass in Beijing, via VOA

According to an unofficial translation of Article 3 of the decree: Religious professionals shall love the motherland, support the leadership of the Communist Party of China, support the socialist system, abide by the Constitution, laws, regulations, and rules; practice the Core Socialist Values, uphold the principle of religious independence and self-management, persist in our nation’s direction of the sinification of religion, and preserve national unity, ethnic unity, religious harmony, and social stability.”

The full decree entitled “Measures on the Management of Religious Professionals” also purports to define “rights” of “religious professionals” – or rather their extreme limitations under the law.

It also requires religious clerics to resist the infiltration of foreign forces through religion. Violators of the new decree will also be subject to criminal charges and other sanctions, which is a strengthening of older policies. Instead of just state-controlled practices, there’s now more legal basis for criminalizing religion that’s been “unapproved”.

Critics are already pointing out it constitutes a further severe crackdown on freedom of religion and worship. One large ‘house church’ leader in Beijing commented to US-funded VOA News, “This decree goes against our religious beliefs, and the separation of politics and religion.” The representative said additionally, “There will be a further narrowing of religious freedom and more severe crackdowns on believers.”

It also further tightens oversight of official government-sanctioned Catholic communities in the country.

Below is the relevant section from the document…

Catholic bishops are to be approved and consecrated by the Bishops Conference of Catholic Church in China. The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and Bishops Conference of Catholic Church in China shall complete a form for recording Catholic bishops within 20 days of consecrating them, send it to the State Bureau of Religious Affairs for filing, and submit the following materials:

  1. Copies of the bishop’s household registration booklet and resident identity card.
  2. An explanation of the circumstances by which the provincial, autonomous region, or directly governed municipality religious group democratically selected that bishop;
  3. The approval documents from the Bishops Conference of Catholic Church in China;
  4. An explanation of their consecration by the bishop that presided over it.

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According to VOA, the new decree is related to a recent push to force various religious communities into integrating official CCP propaganda and history into their religious teaching curriculum: “The issuance of the decree coincides with a push by the government-controlled national religious associations of Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism, Buddhism and Islam to require all believers to study topics such as the histories of the CCP, the People’s Republic of China and socialism to mark the 100th anniversary of the CCP in July.”