China’s ruling Communist Party has banned all of its members and government officials from celebrating Christmas this month, regardless of whether or not they are Christians.
Guidance written by the Chinese Commission for Discipline Inspection in Hengyang city in Chairman Mao Zedong’s home province of Hunan, described Christmas as “spiritual opium” for supposedly atheist party members. The commission also informed local officials not to join in any meals or gatherings on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and issued the ominous warning that those caught at such events would have to “bear responsibility” for their actions.
According to Radio Free Asia, the wording of the formal notice indicates that it has been sent to Party members and government officials across the entire country. The guidance reads: “With the approach of Christmas, leaders and officials of all ranks must promote traditional Chinese culture and take on the task of building a spiritual home for the Chinese people.”
A core tenet of Communist Party ideology is that, as a supposedly atheistic country, the State occupies the paternalistic role and provides spiritual direction for its citizens. This was seen recently in Jiangxi province, where Christians were ordered to exchange their crucifixes, printed gospel passages and images of Jesus Christ for posters of the Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, in order to “transform believers in religion into believers in the party.” Failure to comply meant exclusion from essential government welfare programs.
The notice gives two further orders to party members — one restriction and one requirement for ideological reeducation:
- They must earnestly study the doctrine of cultural self-confidence introduced [by Xi Jinping] at the 19th Party Congress, and refrain from blindly celebrating foreign festivals or engaging in Western religions.
- They must not attend any celebrations of a Western origin, and carry out good security work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Two journalists in Hong Kong told Not Liberal News that “good security work” was Communist Party-speak for shutting down public Christian events and silencing all Christmas music.
RFA reports that a Chinese Protestant Christian from Guangdong said Christmas-themed gifts were rapidly disappearing from stores across major Chinese cities. “Basically any Christmas gift items are being taken from the shelves. That includes items worn by Christians, including a pair of sunglasses with the symbol of the cross and the words ‘Jesus Loves You’,” the man told the news outlet.
Some companies have also received warnings from local government commerce departments ordering them to remove Christmas trees from their stores. Shenyang University in northeast China — perhaps harboring similar neo-Marxist concerns to the University of Minnesota — issued a directive banning Christmas decorations and ordering all students not to hold any gatherings to celebrate the so-called “Western” religious festival.
The institution claims that Christmas celebrations across China are the result of “wrong-headed opinions online” and the directive stated that “it is forbidden to hold any Christmas-related event, in order to enable the broad Communist Party Youth League movement to establish cultural self-confidence”.
Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia told RFA that only Marxism and Xi Jinping’s “cultural self-confidence” ideal are now permitted within university-level education. “There has been a huge backlash against Western religions like Christianity in the Chinese Communist Party, and they are doing everything in their power to stop them,” he said.
In recent years, many Chinese Christians have migrated to Southeast Asia in order to practice their faith without fear of government repercussions. Since Mr. Xi came to power the Communist party has shut down religious gatherings and removed hundreds of crosses from churches across eastern China.
Tucker is a foreign correspondent and media analyst for Not Liberal.