Scandalous Silence About China’s Christians
Even in a world primed for criticism of the CCP, U.S. leaders remain noticeably silent about the persecution of Chinese Christians.
China has become an international criminal for its human rights violations, specifically for its internment of Uyghur Muslims in the so-called reeducation camps in the Xinjiang province, as well as for its gain-of-function experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that very likely created and diffused Covid-19 throughout the world. Yet, scandalously, whether it is from Hollywood or professional sports, to say nothing of many politicians and the mainstream media, criticizing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has become all but taboo.
What is even more scandalous, however, is that so little is being said or reported about the crackdown on Chinese Christians.
Just this past month, the CCP arrested dozens at the Christian Abeka Academy in Suzhou, including children and parents. According to Asia News, the police took action against a Christian music school in Harbin because it offered after-school courses.
In 2020, under the regime of Chairman Xi Jinping, the policy to sinicize the Christian population has included: the removal of over 900 crosses from churches; the confiscation of Bibles across China as the police raided and closed down many house churches, including state-run churches; churches were also bulldozed and destroyed; and for the first time in 40 years, as attested by Bob (Xiqiu) Fu, a Chinese Christian who fled to the United States, the demand for Christian children to renounce their faith, simultaneously prohibiting them from reading or hearing the Bible read to them by their parents.
Beijing has also printed versions of the Bible for government-run schools that distort gospel narratives, such as that of Jesus forgiving the adulteress woman as accounted in the Gospel of John. In the sinicized account of the episode, Jesus instead stones her, saying: “I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.”
The Chinese constitution, while officially providing its citizens “religious freedom,” has long held Christianity in suspicion because of its promotion of Western values and human rights. This is the reason why the CCP restricts religious activities to only government-sanctioned organizations, which are infiltrated by Communists, and registered places of worship.
In reality, Chinese Christians, especially those from the “underground” Catholic Church, have been imprisoned, tortured, and in many instances killed, since the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. These Catholics, for example, can publicly practice their faith provided they submit to the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, founded in 1957. It was eventually recognized by the Vatican in a 2018 provisional agreement, which was renewed in 2020. Accordingly, the CCP names or appoints bishops for its state church, and the Bishop of Rome approves thereafter. The CCP also runs one for Protestants, the Three-Self Church.
Over the last few months, not only have dozens of priests in the “underground” Church been arrested by police in mainland China, at least six of its bishops have disappeared—some for more than 3 years, others for several months, all because they refused to accept the control of the Communist-run Patriotic Church.
Police also arrested a Vatican-approved bishop, Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang, on May 21, a day after authorities detained seven priests and an unspecified number of seminarians. They were accused of violating new regulations governing religious affairs. According to reports the bishop and the priests drew the ire of authorities by using an abandoned factory as a seminary for the formation of priests.
President Joe Biden and American allies have imposed sanctions on China over its treatment of the Uyghur Muslims, which is to be commended. Biden has even reasserted the U.S. position that if China attacks Taiwan, it would come to the island’s aid.
Yet how has the Biden administration responded to the persecution of Chinese Christians? It has not responded at all. In fact, under President Joe Biden, the CCP’s drive to subjugate or even eliminate Christians has has gone unchecked and escalated. The Biden administration has ignored the Chinese persecution of Christians; the same can be said of the Vatican.
The State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report (2021) did include Chinese Christians as victims of the CCP’s ongoing suppression of religious freedom. However, when Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to reporters on the findings, he favored the aforementioned Uyghurs, not mentioning Christians at all: “China broadly criminalizes religious expression and continues to commit crimes against humanity and genocide against Muslim Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups.”
This is a different approach from the Trump administration, when last year then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighted the unfortunate fate of Chinese Christians:
Catholic churches and shrines have been desecrated and destroyed. Catholic bishops like Augustine Cui Tai have been imprisoned. And Catholic lay leaders in the human rights movement, not least in Hong Kong, have been arrested. Authorities order residents to replace pictures of Jesus with those of Chairman Mao and those of General Secretary Xi Jinping.
The deafening silence of American media and the Biden administration regarding the CCP’s persecution of Chinese Christians is scandalous, at best.
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He was born in New York and holds a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, as well as a M.A. in Medieval History from Fordham University in New York. He is the author of Islam: Religion of Peace?—The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up (Westbow Press: 2018).