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Stephen Mosher speaking at the 2019 Rome Life Forum at the Angelicum.Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews

ROME, May 17, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — China expert and social scientist Steven Mosher warned that persecution of Christians, particularly Catholics, in China is currently unfolding in a way the “world has never seen the likes of.”

Mosher, the president of the Population Research Institute who in 1979 was the first American social scientist to visit mainland China, began his talk at the Rome Life Forum on Thursday at the Angelicum by saying he wished he had happier news to tell his audience.

Citing Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s video address, Mosher said the bishop had spoken to his heart in talking about the City of God versus the City of Man.

“[Schneider] said ‘replacing the will of God with the will of godless man is one goal of the City of Man,” Mosher recalled. “And we see that in full bloom in China today.”

“In China, that man, in fact, has a name,” he continued. “His name is Xi Jinping, and he is as cruel and merciless an individual as we have seen ruling China since Mao Zedong back in the 1950s and ’60s.”

The Chinese president “demands total submission from the Chinese people, including Chinese Catholics, who seem to be first on the chopping block,” Mosher said, and there are several hundred thousand people in Chinese prisons for not being sufficiently submissive to his will.

Using the more than two-thousand-year-old Chinese system of bureaucratic totalitarianism coupled with advanced technology, Xi is attempting to solve that problem.

“Xi Jinping has declared himself, quoting the late Joseph Stalin, that the Chinese Communist Party and he in particular are to be engineers of the Chinese soul,” Mosher said.

“Think about that phrase,” he continued. “Really [Xi] wants to re-engineer the Chinese soul. He wants to take it apart in little pieces, expunge everything that stands in the way of total submission and obedience to the Party, and then reassemble it to produce obedient clones, followers.”

“By now it should be clear to everyone, even presumably Vatican diplomats, that things are going from bad to worse in China,” Mosher declared.

Because of the secret September 2018 Sino-Vatican deal, religious freedom is more endangered than ever, Mosher believes. In part because the terms of the agreement are secret, the Communists have presented it to both the Underground Catholic Church and the so-called Catholic Patriotic Association as a submission by the Vatican of the control of the Church in China to the Chinese Communist Party itself.

Mosher revealed that communist authorities are telling underground bishops and laity that the Sino-Vatican accord requires them to register with the government and to join the Catholic Patriotic Association. Nearly all of them refuse to do this, Mosher said, for they know the Association is not in communion with Rome. The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association was founded in 1958 by Mao Zedong as “an instrument of control.”

Punishment for not joining the Communist Patriotic Association includes arresting resistors and demolishing their churches and shrines. However, even “approved” churches and shrines belonging to the Catholic Patriotic Association are being destroyed, Mosher said.

Meanwhile, the system used to enforce China’s one-child policy, later revised to a two-child policy, is now being employed to eradicate signs of religious faith from the public square.

“Local officials have been told by the central government that they are responsible for making sure that there is no public expression of any religious sentiment anywhere in the counties or the villages or the towns that they control,” Mosher revealed. 

Just as with the two-child policy, the local officials will be fined or lose their positions if they do not force their citizens to comply. Mosher reported that as well as removing churches and crosses, these local officials have been going into private dwellings and confiscating religious articles, including Bibles.

“The state … is writing its own Bible,” he explained. “We now have Communist Party ideologues rewriting the Scriptures, and they’re going to issue a new Bible to everyone.”

Mosher said this system is “a prescription for intense nationwide persecution of not just Catholics, and not just Christians, but all religious believers,” including Buddhists and Taoists. However, the “war on all religions” targets Catholics in particular because they belong to the only religion whose head lives outside China.

The speaker revealed also that the Sino-Vatican agreement is a disappointment not only to Chinese Catholics, but to Tibetan Buddhists and religious freedom advocates in the USA. Tibetan Buddhists have complained that the Vatican has created a precedent, in allowing the Chinese Communist Party to choose bishops, for the party to choose the next Dalai Lama. Meanwhile, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom holds that China “is in a category all by itself in terms of violations of religious freedom” and that the Vatican has a “moral and legal” responsibility to solve the problems its agreement with China has inadvertently caused.

Mosher also described in detail how the Chinese government is using smartphones, video surveillance, social media, and other technology to monitor Chinese citizens and reward or punish them through a social credit system. For example, everyone is required to have a Xi Jinping app on his smartphone. It is called “Study Xi Strong China,” and everyone is required to study Xi on his smartphone for half an hour every day and answer a daily quiz. If one misses a session, his social credit score goes down.

“In China, if you combine big data and artificial intelligence with the power of the government, which is essentially unlimited, you have what we could call a high-tech digital dictatorship,” Mosher said.  

The author then returned to the theme of the Sino-Vatican agreement, which both he and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom believe has made life more difficult for Catholics and other Christians in China. Hong Kong’s Cardinal Zen has called the deal “an incredible betrayal” and “a complete surrender for the Underground Chinese Catholic Church.”

“And that’s sadly what it’s turning out to be,” Mosher said.

Also relevant to the increasing hardship for Christians in China is last May’s takeover of the Catholic Patriotic Association by the Communist Party. Once governed by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the community is now controlled by the United Front Department. Mosher described how the United Front takes over groups that are not directly controlled by the Communist Party and makes them its willing slaves.

Mosher believes that this will happen to the Catholic Patriotic Association and quoted its “Bishop” Fong, a party apparatchik, who said, “We should all be loyal to the Party first, and then we can be good Catholics second.” 

“What we have in China is an unfolding persecution the world has never seen the likes of,” the expert said. “It’s not a persecution where Christians are being arrested and fed to lions, but it’s a persecution where Christians are being arrested for their very thoughts.”

Through the use of technology, big data, artificial intelligence, and surveillance techniques, the Communist Party is able to divine what those thoughts are.

“So the persecution is a persecution that is intended to re-engineer their very souls and turn them into good, obedient, docile followers of the Chinese Communist Party,” Mosher concluded.

In the face of such evil, Mosher recommended that Christians pray for China; that the Sino-Vatican agreement be revoked; and, if this is not possible, that the Vatican at least speak out against orthodox Catholics being forced to join the schismatic Patriotic Association. He believes that only shaming from abroad changes the government’s behavior, so he believes thaht a strong condemnation by the Vatican would help religious freedom in China.

Mosher, a Catholic, would also like to see the consecration of China to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.