Needy Christians are forced to replace religious images with pictures of the president to get aid. “They think God is their saviour,” an official said. “After our cadres’ work, they’ll realise their mistakes and think: we should no longer rely on Jesus, but on the party for help”. According to some sources, the number of Christians exceeds that of party members.
Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Yugan County, a poor rural area in the southern province of Jiangxi Province, has undertaken a campaign to replace religious faith with faith in the party.
To achieve this, the local government is asking people to replace the image of Jesus with that of Xi Jinping if they want to benefit from its poverty-relief programme.
Such a practice is a throwback to the times of the personality cult of Mao Zedong, whose picture was ubiquitous in Chinese homes.
A local social media account reported over the weekend that in Yugan’s Huangjinbu township, party officials visited poor Christian families to promote the party’s poverty-relief policies and help them solve their material problems.
The officials successfully “melted the hard ice in their hearts” and “transformed them from believing in religion to believing in the party”, the report said.
As a result, more than 600 villagers “voluntarily” got rid of the religious texts and paintings they had in their homes, and replaced them with 453 portraits of Xi.
By Monday afternoon, the report disappeared, but the campaign was confirmed by villagers and local officials.
A resident of another township in Yugan said that in recent months many of his fellow villagers had been told to remove religious artefacts from their homes.
“They all have their belief and, of course, they didn’t want to take them down. But there is no way out. If they don’t agree to do so, they won’t be given their quota from the poverty-relief fund,” he said.
Qi Yan, chairman of the Huangjinbu people’s congress and the person in charge of the township’s poverty-relief drive, denied the claim, saying that people were asked only to take down religious posters in the centre of their homes.
He noted that the campaign had been running across the county since March, focused on teaching Christian families how much the party had done to help eradicate poverty.
“They think God is their saviour,” Qi said. “After our cadres’ work, they’ll realise their mistakes and think: we should no longer rely on Jesus, but on the party for help”.
Located on the edge of Poyang Lake, Yugan County in Jiangxi province is known equally for its poverty and its large Christian community.
More than 11 per cent of its 1 million residents live below the country’s official poverty line, whilst nearly 10 per cent of its population is Christian.
Here, as in the rest of the country, the Communist Party has been trying to counter the influence of Christianity, which has been growing rapidly since the end of the Cultural Revolution more than 40 years ago.
According to some estimates, the number of Christians in China is greater than the 90 million party members.