New religious regulations take effect in China this month that require that churches not only refrain from criticizing communism but that they actively promote it. That’s the word from persecution ministry Voice of the Martyrs Korea, which says that the September 1 “Measures on the Administration of Religious Activity Venues” require churches to be “communist first and Christian second”.
“Jesus said, ‘Whoever is not for us is against us,’ and that is certainly the approach taken here by the China Communist Party,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. “These new requirements from the State Administration for Religious Affairs of China say that for churches to continue to be permitted to operate, their first goal—even more important than the promotion of their own religious beliefs—must be the promotion of communism.”
Representative Foley points to Article 30 of the new regulations, which says:
“The management organization of a place of religious activity shall perform the following duties:
(a) To unite and educate religious citizens to love the motherland, support the leadership of the Communist Party of China, practice socialist core values, adhere to the direction of the Sinicization of our country’s religions, and abide by the Constitution, laws, regulations, rules and regulations and the relevant provisions of the management of religious affairs;
(b) To implement the rules and regulations formulated by the religious groups of this religion;
(c) To establish and improve the management system for personnel, finance, assets, accounting, archives, security, fire protection, cultural relics protection, food safety and hygiene and epidemic prevention of the place and organize the implementation of such systems.”
“As of September 1, it’s no longer sufficient for Chinese churches to refrain from criticizing Communism; now they have to be Communism’s biggest cheerleaders,” says Representative Foley. “Article 27 says that church leaders must ‘love the motherland and support the leadership of the Communist Party’. Article 39 says, ‘The content of preaching and sermons should be suitable for our country’s national conditions and characteristics of the times, integrate excellent traditional Chinese culture, and reflect the core socialist values.’ Pastors who don’t do this can be banned from preaching.”
According to Representative Foley, “Government-sanctioned churches are now praising and supporting communism in a way that goes further than some China state-run media.” She says the trend began in late 2022, when Three-Self churches hosted various activities for the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.
“Recently, Sicheng Church, a government-registered church in Hangzhou, organized a special session on implementing the spirit of the National Congress,” says Representative Foley. “On the church’s website, its pastor, Huang Mingke, emphasized the church’s support for the Chinese government’s program of Sinicization. These new September 1 regulations will likely make public shows of support for Communism by churches even more common.”
On July 3, a hammer and sickle, the emblem of the Chinese Communist Party, was placed next to Shinian Christian Church in Zhejiang Province.
In other cases, churches have been compelled to make public shows of support for communism by local officials. Representative Foley says that on July 3, a hammer and sickle, the emblem of the Chinese Communist Party, was placed next to the sign of the Shinian Christian Church in Zhejiang Province. “A pastor in Zhejiang province reported that the Religious Affairs Bureau sent out notices to surrounding churches,” says Representative Foley. “They requested that all religious venues must put up large signs at their entrances that say, ‘love the Chinese communist party, love the country, and love the religion’ and ‘uphold the principle of developing religions in the Chinese context.’ We can expect the new September regulations to make this kind of pressure more common.”
Representative Foley says that while the new regulations govern registered churches, the impact on unregistered churches will be significant. “The regulations further make clear that unregistered churches are not only unacceptable but also criminal,” says Representative Foley. She notes Article 29 of the regulations, which she says specifically targets unregistered groups. “Article 29 says ‘places of worship shall be promptly removed’ if they are considered to undermine national unity, promote extremism, violate public order, partner with groups outside the country, accept donations in violation of state regulations, hold unauthorized religious activities, etcetera—these are the specific types of charges that authorities have used increasingly across China to shut down unregistered churches.”
She points to the August 20 raid on New Hope Church in Meizhou, Guangdong province during its Sunday worship service and the August 11 fraud charges against three leaders of Sichuan’s Zili Church for permitting their church to receive tithes and offerings as recent examples of this kind of enforcement. “The new regulations give provincial level officials even more legal tools to crack down on unregistered churches,” she says. “But the main charge against unregistered churches by Chinese authorities is more and more likely to be: If you are a Chinese church and you are not promoting communism, you will be shut down.”
Still, Representative Foley says she believes the unregistered churches will remain true to their calling to glorify God alone. “In the last few years, we’ve seen congregations like Early Rain Church in Chengdu and Zion Church in Beijing withstand every attack by the authorities, from house arrests to building confiscation to beatings to jail time, and yet those congregations are still standing firm,” says Representative Foley. “They are still standing not because the authorities have been tame in their attacks but because the Lord Jesus is able to make them stand in the face of even the worst adversity. He shows continual care to all those who stand on his name alone, and his church will continue to advance in China.”
Individuals interested in learning about or supporting Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s work in partnership with the house church Christians of China can visit www.vomkorea.com/en/china or give via electronic transfer to:
KB Bank: 463501-01-243303
Account Holder: (사)순교자의소리
Please note “China” on the transfer.