China will enforce new restrictions on religious groups, organizations, meetings, and other related events starting on Feb 1.
The country’s state-controlled media announced the new policy on Dec. 30, after Chinese authorities moved to further suppress Catholics in the Archdiocese of Fuzhou who are refusing to join the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
According to UCA News, the new “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups,” which consists of six sections and 41 articles, will control every aspect of religious activity within China, and will mandate that all religions and believers in China comply with regulations issued by the Chinese Communist Party, which must be acknowledged as the higher authority.
“Religious organizations must adhere to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, observe the constitution, laws, regulations, ordinances and policies, adhere to the principle of independence and self-government, adhere to the directives on religions in China, implementing the values of socialism,” says Article 5 of the new policies.
In Article 17 states that “religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party,” as well as requiring “religious personnel and religious citizens to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, supporting the socialist system, adhering to and following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Other articles in the new measures state that religious organizations “must establish a learning system” to train employees in aligning with the Chinese Communist Party’s policies, and also requires that the government authorities be involved in the selection of religious officers and involved in disputes.
Article 34 states “Without the approval of the religious affairs department of the people’s government, or registration with the civil affairs department of the people’s government, no activities can be carried out in the name of religious groups.” This means that “home churches” or any form of underground churches are illegal.
For decades after the Communist revolution in China, the “underground” Catholic Church existed in full communion with Rome, while well as the state-sponsored Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, consecrated bishops chosen by government authorities and existed in a state of schism.
In September 2018, a provisional agreement between Beijing and Vatican officials was announced, intended to unify the underground Church and the CPCA. While the terms of the agreement have been kept confidential, it reportedly gives the CPCA the right to choose a slate of nominees for bishop, from which the pope makes a selection.
Since the agreement, the underground churches and bishops in China have been subjected to a coercive campaign to align with the CPCA. Some churches have been ordered closed or destroyed by the government for not joining the CPCA.
In the Archdiocese of Fuzhou, located in southeastern China, over 100 churches have been closed down by the government since August of 2019. The crackdown began after only five members of the clergy attended a “training conference” sponsored by the United Front Work Department and the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau.
Catholic churches in the city of Fuqing were locked shut and surveillance cameras were installed to keep out any parishioners. Fuqing is the hometown of Fr. Lin Yuntuan, who was the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Fuzhou.
According to the publication Bitter Winter, the government sees Lin as a “charismatic and influential figure” who is preventing the merger of the underground Church with the CPCA.
A priest from Fuqing told Bitter Winter that the government is taking aim at what they have termed “rebellious priests” in the province who refuse to join the CPCA.
Other priests have said they are forbidden to meet with each other and are subject to constant harassment from the government.