Young people: first victims of Beijing’s new religious regulations
by Wang Zhicheng

Since February 1, many parishes in Shanxi and Inner Mongolia have been ordered not to hold camps for young people, close to the Chinese New Year. Private religious gatherings also banned in schools and universities. Attempts to stop religious growth among young people.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – As of February 1, the new regulations for religious activities are in vigour.  First published last October they provide for close monitoring of all official communities and fines, arrests and expropriation for members of unofficial communities. Among the first victims of this clamp down are the young people.

AsiaNews sources confirm that since February 1, the Religious Affairs Bureau and the Department of the United Front have begun to call all Catholic parishes to make it clear that from now on it will not be possible to hold camps (spring or summer) where young people usually gather for a few days of vacation and spirituality. The new regulations in fact require that "religious schools" can only be carried out in registered places and under State control. Being in a tent, outdoors or in some inexpensive hotel, and holding meetings and even being together with young people will be considered "illegal religious activity". The urgency of the order is also due to the arrival of the long holiday on the occasion of the Chinese New Year, which begins on 16 February.

Several priests from Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and other parts of China have already received this warning. Some parishes received the letter from the Religious Affairs Bureau.

The new regulations also require that "non-religious groups, non-confessional schools, non-religious activity sites should not carry out religious formation", as well as "non-religious academies ... must not have religious activities" (Article 41). To follow these indications, for several years - not only with the new regulations - universities and schools prohibit Christmas celebrations, even Christmas parties, decorations and greetings in the name of "Chinese cultural identity", while allowing however - for example - the broadcast of football games.

One fact that is already being implemented among Chinese Muslims is the prohibition of young people under 18 years from attending the mosque. Among the Christians this prohibition is less observed. But last August, at least 100 Protestant communities received orders not to allow their children to take part in religious ceremonies and catechism.

The Party appears to be urgently attempting to stem the growth of faith in young people. According to a statistic issued some years ago, more than 60% of Chinese university students in Beijing and Shanghai are eager to learn about Christianity. The religious awakening in China now seems uncontrollable.