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President Xi Jinping of China.Noel Celis - Pool / Getty Images

BEIJING, January 6, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — New draconian rules for religious groups are set to go into place in China requiring that they “spread Communist Party principles.”

China’s totalitarian government promulgated new rules on December 30 that will place virtually all aspects of religious life under the control of the Communist Party. The “administrative measures” consist of six chapters and 41 articles governing the “organization, functions, supervision and management of religious groups,” which would include religious doctrine, annual and daily activities, and rallies.

The new rules go into force on February 1 and come as part of a growing crackdown by Chinese communists on religion. For example, about 1 million Muslim Uighur people are being kept in re-education camps, where some have been subjected to torture. Christian churches have been razed by authorities, who have curtailed the independence of Christian ministers. Two million Christians and Buddhist are being kept in detention. Jewish communities have also been harassed.

In concert with the government’s policy of “sinicization,” which is intended to underscore Chinese culture and socialist polity, the new rules reinforce policies announced in 2017 to reinterpret Christian teachings according to socialist doctrine. Besides its persecution of Christian and Muslim believers for supposedly foreign doctrines in its war on religion, China has mercilessly pursued members of the native-born spiritualist Falun Gong movement for more than 20 years.

According to Radio Free Asia, churches in Hunan province were forced last year to remove displays of the Ten Commandments and replace them with quotes of President Xi Jinping. Likewise, churches in Jiangxi province were ordered to remove biblical paintings and crosses and replace them with portraits of the president. In some areas, all public displays of Christmas decorations have been banned. In addition, party officials have been told that celebrating the feast is contrary to CCP teachings.

In December, Christians belonging to “house churches” not recognized by the government were ordered to refrain from publicly celebrating Christmas. A Protestant pastor in Shandong, where previous celebrations had drawn thousands of worshipers, said, “We are afraid to meet in public [because such meetings] have been designated illegal gatherings.” Identified solely as John, the pastor said, “We can’t do Christmas this year. We can’t have any activities on Christmas.”

Under the new rules, all religious organizations will be required to obey and promote Communist Party values and China’s President Xi Jinping. Churches will be expected to “spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party” and indoctrinate all “religious staff and religious citizens to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.”

According to Asia News (linked above), a Chinese Catholic priest observed: “In practice, your religion no longer matters, if you are Buddhist, or Taoist, or Muslim or Christian: the only religion allowed is faith in the Chinese Communist Party [CCP].”

According to the new rules, all churches and religious organizations must adhere to the leadership of the Communist Party and “to the directives on religions in China, implementing the values of socialism.”

Article 17 directs: “Religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the CCP, as well as national laws, regulations, rules to religious personnel and religious citizens, educating religious personnel and religious citizens to support the leadership of the CCP, supporting the socialist system, adhering to and following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

Religious organizations must submit all decisions for approval by Communist Party officials. According to the rules, local religious affairs offices serve as the “administrative bodies” for all religious organizations, controlling them through “guidance and supervision.”

A disastrous and secret Vatican-Beijing accord

China is home to a growing community of 68 million Protestants. There are also approximately 3.3 million Catholics, with another 5.7 million who consider themselves Catholics but belong to the schismatic state-sponsored Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA).

The CPPA is not in communion with the papacy and has operated in parallel with the so-called “underground” Church, which consists of clergy and laity who have remained loyal to the pope and the worldwide church despite decades of persecution, summary arrests, torture, and death.

In 2018, the Vatican reached a secret provisional agreement with Beijing, having long sought to normalize ties between the Catholic Church and China’s government. The accord allows the communists to play a role in appointing bishops. Under a previous arrangement, Vatican diplomats dealt with members of the government in order to iron out disagreements. Under the new accord, they will deal with Communist Party cadres.

Despite the agreement, persecution of the Church has increased in China. At least one bishop and several priests have refused to register with the Chinese government despite being allowed by the Vatican. Bishop Vincent Guo of Mindong province fled his official captors last year rather than register with the government. Bishop Guo remains in hiding.

Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, members of the U.S. Commission on Human Rights, and prominent Christians have called on Pope Francis to repudiate the secret agreement or, at the very least, make it public so it can be scrutinized and reveal whether or not it requires all Catholics to register with the CPCA per the government’s claims.

In December, Cardinal Zen said he fears that the Pope is legitimizing schism within the Catholic Church in China through the controversial agreement. Saying the current pope’s diplomacy toward China has been “disastrous,” Cardinal Zen said Pope Francis is effectively “shutting down” the legacy of popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI in their relations with China’s government and Chinese Catholics.