Beijing, China, Jan 15, 2019 / 14:01 pm
A campaign by the Chinese government to 'Sinicize' religion is ongoing, with detention and indoctrination of Muslims in the far west of the country, and the closing of underground churches to the east.
In early December, Wang Yi and more than 100 members of his congregation were detained in Sichuan province. Some were released the next day, but then put under house arrest.
The Observer, a sister paper to The Guardian, reported Jan. 13 that Wang's ecclesial community, Early Rain Covenant Church, has now been closed, and that Wang and his wife remain in detention, charged with inciting subversion. Some members of the community are in hiding, some have been effectively exiled from the Sichuanese capital, and others are under surveillance.
The building rented by Early Rain Covenant Church has new tenants, and police turn away those looking for the church.
According to The Observer, another church was put under investigation in the Sichuanese capital last week, a Sunday school was raided in Guangzhou in December, and a 1,500-member church in Beijing has been “banned … after its pastor refused to install CCTV.”
Part of the plan to Sinicize Christianity, The Observer reported, is “thought reform”: “The plan calls for 'retranslating and annotating' the Bible, to find commonalities with socialism and establish a 'correct understanding' of the text.”
Religious freedom is officially guaranteed by the Chinese constitution, but religious groups must register with the government, and are overseen by the Chinese Communist Party. The Sinizication of religion has been pushed by President Xi Jinping, who took power in 2013 and who has strengthened government oversight of religious activities.
The Church in mainland China has been divided for some 60 years between the underground Church, which is persecuted and whose episcopal appointments are frequently not acknowledged by Chinese authorities, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a government-sanctioned organization.