14 April 2021, The Tablet

Beijing demands priests manifest 'love for the party'

Beijing demands priests manifest 'love for the party'

An Easter vigil at a Catholic church in Shanghai, China earlier this month.

The Chinese government has passed a new decree which demands that all clerics in China manifest their “love for the Communist Party”.

According to the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), which is based in Frankfurt am Main, the new decree is “a further totalitarian measure to limit religious freedom”. The decree applies to all religions, that is Buddhist lamas, Christian clerics, Muslim imams and other religious leaders.

“Decree No.15” was already issued in January by the National Office for Religious Affairs in Beijing for “administration” in religious institutions. It comes into force on 1 May 2021.

Clerics will then be obliged to “maintain national unity, ethnic unity, religious harmony and social stability”. They must in no way “endanger national security”, “undermine national unity” or “divide the country”.

According to the ISHR, the communist leadership in Beijing intends to implement its so-called sinicisation policy “right through to the total conformity of all believers”. The new measures will contribute towards “institutionalising the constant suppression of believers of diverse religions”.

Not only religion teachers and community leaders but all religious writings and ceremonies would have to conform to “communist leadership standards”. In order to enforce the decree, the Chinese government has scheduled drastic control measures, among others a personalised 12-figure code which is part of a rating system. Clerics will be required to ask permission to carry out religious activities in advance. Should they not do so, they could lose their legitimisation and would be fined.

It is estimated that approximately 10 million of China’s 1.4 billion population are Catholic.   

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