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UCA News: In China, new signs of increased state control over religion

Friday, October 9, 2015

UCA News reporter, Hong Kong
October 9, 2015

Communist Party seeks to minimize foreign influence over religious institutions

The Chinese Communist Party is sending signals that it will intensify control over the Catholic Church and other religions during its upcoming summit on religion, the first such meeting during the three-year leadership of Xi Jinping.

Zhongguo Mingzu Bao, the official newspaper on religious issues, noted in an Oct. 8 commentary that Xi is "serious" on religion.

Though the article did not specify individual religions, it alluded to church, clergy and dioceses, an apparent reference to the Catholic Church and other Christian churches.

Two laywomen pray at Shanghai's St. Ignatius Cathedral in
May. ( file photo)
The article implied that Xi is seeking to minimize foreign influence on Chinese institutions, saying that all religions should be managed by religious organizations from within China. "There is no need for certain groups and individuals outside China to worry about this," it said.

"It's obvious that control on religions is to be tightened," a priest, who identified himself as Father Peter, told "It was theory and slogans in the past. Now it becomes a real game to play."

The article was posted on the newspaper's social media site, with the headline referring to Xi by his nickname "Xi Dada."

Citing Xi's speech at the central United Front Work Department meeting in May, the article said the president has stated very clearly that all religions must adapt to socialist policy. It is "a common principle for all religions to comply with" since Communist China was founded in 1949, it said.

The Chinese government has established patriotic associations for all five recognized religions — Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam and Protestantism.

The Vatican has objected to China's control over church operations, in particular the appointment of bishops and administrative boundaries of dioceses.

In September, the United Front Work Department, which oversees religion, announced regulations that prevent foreign involvement in China's religious institutions and ban party members from following a faith.

The new regulations come amid a nearly two-year cross-removal campaign in Zhejiang province in which more than 1,200 crosses were removed from church structures. The campaign, which has drawn international condemnation from religious rights groups, shows no sign of slowing down, sources have told

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"Bob Fu has dedicated his life to bringing freedom of religion to the Chinese people. His story is a testimony to the power of faith and an inspiration to people struggling to break free from oppression."
—Mrs. Laura Bush

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