Last week, China announced that it would drop presidency term limits, effectively allowing current president Xi Jinping to serve indefinitely. The leader is currently concluding his first five-year term, one not particularly positive for the country’s Christians.
During his time in office, a provincial government engaged in a multi-year campaign to remove crosses from the tops of churches and Xi suggested that religions that inadequately conformed to Communist ideals threatened the country’s government, and therefore must become more “Chinese-oriented.” Last fall, the Communist party reportedly visited Christian households in Jiangxi province, forcibly removing dozens of Christian symbols from living rooms and replacing them with pictures of Xi.
In February, the government hit the faith community with another set of restrictions. Under these regulations, religious groups must gain government approval for any sort of religious activity, including using one’s personal home for a religious practice, publishing religious materials, calling oneself a pastor, or studying theology.
The government accepted the “worst possible version” of the restrictions, said Fenggang Yang, the director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University. The government could have been more pragmatic in its approach and treated this as a “social management issue.”
“But these [restrictions] are not,” he said. “It’s going to be very difficult or impossible to implement or enforce the restrictions.”
Yang joined associate digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss the roots of the government’s anti-religion attitudes, how Christians are speaking out against the recent term limits, and the fledgling Chinese missions movement.