Telegraph: China purges Robinson Crusoe



Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Telegraph
Our Foreign Staff 
24 DECEMBER 2019 • 12:30PM

China has stripped literary children's classics in elementary school textbooks of all references to Christianity, replacing “God” and “Bible,” with secular terms, such as “good heaven” and “several books.”

The story of Daniel Defoe’s swashbuckling traveller Robinson Crusoe reads “several Portuguese books,” rather than “the Bible and prayer books.”

A line in The Little Match Girl, whose title character sells matchbooks in the wintry cold, by Hans Christian Andersen, now says: “When a star falls, a person will leave the world,” altering the latter half of the sentence, which previously read, “the spirit resides with God.”

And in Anton Chekhov’s short story, Vanka, about a child shoemaker apprentice, references to God and the act of praying are left entirely out of the text.

Publishers began releasing the new sixth-grade textbooks over the last year, altered from earlier versions. The literary classics are the only school materials for lower grades that include any religious references.

The book purge is also expanding beyond the classroom.

On Oct 15, the Ministry of Education announced that any books that 'publicise religions teachings" are '"inappropriate" and should thus be eliminated from libraries. A week later, a public library in Gansu province burned 65 books after authorities claimed they were "illegal and religious publications" that contained "deviant tendencies.”

“The overall goal is to remove Christian influence in every possible sphere in society, especially on future generations,” said Bob Fu, founder ChinaAid, a human rights organisation that promotes religious freedom.

It’s part of a wider crackdown against religion by China's officially atheist Communist Party, which has become more severe since 2016. Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, has vowed to "Sinicise" religions and to make such beliefs "compatible with socialist society."

Chinese authorities have shut down churches, removing thousands of rooftop crosses and burning them, Mr Fu said. The government has also detained priests and members of various congregations.

Party members have always been banned from practicising any form of religion; in recent years, however, the clamp down has extended to more people.

Some teachers have said they were forced by their institutions to sign written statements attesting that they’re atheist. And students have been pressured by school officials to testify the same, said Mr Fu.

China is among the most difficult and dangerous countries in the world to practice Christianity, according to Open Doors, a US-based Christian non-profit that tracks the persecution of Christians globally.

Followers of other religions, including Buddhists and Muslims, have also been affected by the crackdown. Chinese authorities have banned Arab-style onion domes on mosques and other buildings, even if merely decorative, and pictures of Mr Xi and the Chinese flag are now required to be placed and flown prominently in houses of worship.

In the far west province of Xinjiang, the UN estimates more than a million Muslims have been detained against their will in “re-education" camps, where former detainees have told the Telegraph they were shackled, deprived of sleep, tortured, forced to renounce Islam, and made to study Communist propaganda.

Despite the crackdown, the Council on Foreign Relations says China's rapidly growing Christian population could become the world's largest over the next decade. It’s unclear whether the estimate captures worshippers who gather at non-state-approved "underground" churches in secret.

Chinese authorities claim people have freedom of religion, though all religious believers are required to "be subordinate to and serve the overall interests of the nation and the Chinese people,” according to the central government. That includes “guiding religious groups to support the leadership of the Communist Party of China.”

The suppression campaign uses the "state’s power and Communist propaganda to make sure that only atheist Communist ideology is allowed in any legitimate public space,” said Mr Fu.


ChinaAid Media Team
Cell: +1 (432) 553-1080 | Office: +1 (432) 689-6985 | Other: +1 (888) 889-7757
Email: media@chinaaid.org
For more information, click here