03/08/2023, 15.59
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'Two Sessions': Beijing 'sinicises' religions (forcing their members to register for services)

by Li Qiang

Outgoing Prime Minister Li Keqiang said that it is necessary to “actively guide religions to adapt to socialist society”. In Henan, believers must fill out an online form to attend church Masses, mosque prayers or rituals in Buddhist temples. The newly selected (and useless) Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference has 11 Catholic representatives.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Outgoing Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last Friday opened the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC).

In his address, Li made the key point that, “The basic policy of the [Chinese Communist] Party on religious activities has been implemented and the 'sinicisation' of religions has been carried out gradually.” He added that it is necessary to "actively guide religions to adapt to socialist society".

In Henan, the authorities have followed the order with great zeal. As the China Christian Daily reports, religious believers of every creed are now required to register in order to attend religious services in churches, mosques or Buddhist temples.

In Henan, believers must fill out a form available on the "Smart Religion" application, developed by the Provincial Commission for Ethnic and Religious Affairs, in which they must provide name, telephone number, identity card details, permanent residence, occupation and date of birth.

At the entrance of places of worship, people are now required to have their temperature taken, a sign that some anti-pandemic restrictions are still in place despite their lifting last December.

Sinicisation simply means profiling and monitoring people. Anti-Christian persecution is intense in Henan, where Christians are about 4 per cent of the population, the highest percentage in the country.

It should be noted that local police have illegally detained Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang almost two years ago. Since then, he has not been charged or convicted.

Faced with anti-religious oppression, state bodies ostensibly representing the interests of civil society groups are increasingly showing their uselessness.

First among them is the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a body that together with the much more important PNC, is called to rubberstamp decisions taken by President Xi Jinping and other Communist Party leaders.

The CPPCC’s 2,172 delegates are presently meeting in their annual plenary session along with the NPC for the “Two Sessions” (Lianghui), during which Xi's third term in office and the appointment of other top leaders will be made official.

The CPPCC currently has 11 Catholic representatives, three of whom are vice presidents, namely Bishop Shen Bin of Haimen (Jiangsu) who heads the Council of Chinese Bishops, a body linked to the Communist Party but not recognised by the Holy See; Archbishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing, who chairs the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, another entity that is an expression of the regime; and Bishop Fang Xinyao of Linyi (Shandong).

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