05/16/2018, 16.27
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How the Chinese Communist Party controls religions

by Lao Gao (老高)

Throughout its history, China’s Communist Party has used well-known Buddhist leaders, Protestant clergymen and bishops to control religious communities and bend them to its will. The stories of Zhao Puchu, Zhao Fusan, Li Chuwen, and Jin Luxian are examples of that. A possible deal over episcopal the appointments between China and the Vatican is now raising fears.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Communist Party of China (CPC) has used Buddhist leaders, Protestant clergymen, scholars, and bishops to "infiltrate", control and twist religious communities, this according to Lao Gao (not his real name), a Catholic layman in the underground community, who here looks at some leading religious figures connected to the Party.

Without making any exhaustive claim in the matter, the author casts a certain light on the compromises and ties that allowed these individuals to forge brilliant careers. It should also be noted that for some of them, the Tiananmen massacre provided an opportunity for a break and flight.

Lao Gao appears concerned about the ongoing dialogue between the Holy See and China on episcopal appointments. He seems to fear that a possible agreement might give Beijing a cover to dominate the Church through the power to choose candidates to the episcopate, without any limits from the Vatican side, thus creating a generation of "opportunistic" bishops, to quote Benedict XVI.

It should be noted that under new regulations on religious activities, all communities are called to "sinicise themselves" and show their support for the Communist Party CCP.

In the People's Republic of China, the Party controls everything, especially religions, because they are considered antagonistic to its power. The Party itself considers itself a very exclusive god.

In order to achieve the goal of weakening or even eliminating religions, the Party uses unscrupulous means and principles, forcing important members of religions into strange alliances.

Zhao Puchu (1907-2000), one of China’s best-known Buddhist leaders, chaired the Buddhist Association of China for almost half a century. He always behaved like a religious leader above suspicion. In reality, he was an undercover member of the Party. Obviously, he obeyed the instructions of Party leaders to subvert Buddhism from within.[i]

Protestant pastor Zhao Fusan (1926-2015), educational director of the seminary of Protestant Churches in Beijing, behaved like a good Christian. He was also greatly appreciated for his profound knowledge of the Bible and mastery of languages.

During the Cultural Revolution, under torture by the Red Guards, he revealed his identity as a Communist agent infiltrated in Protestant circles. After the Cultural Revolution, he was appointed director of the Institute of Religions at the Academy of Social Sciences. Later he became an Assistant Secretary of the CPC Committee in the Academy of Social Sciences, i.e. the second most important member of this important think-tank in mainland China.

During this period of time, he was able to examine – on behalf of the CPC Central Committee –  the secret files of all religions, in particular Christian groups. In 1989 he criticised the military for the Tiananmen massacre and went to live outside of China. At the time, he was China’s representative to UNESCO. China’s mission to the UN agency was a nest of Chinese espionage in Europe. After condemning the Tiananmen massacre, he remained in Europe and then moved to the United States, where he died.[ii]

In Shanghai, Li Chuwen (1918-2018) was another important Protestant and a closet Communist until the Cultural Revolution. In the 1980s he was appointed deputy director of the Xinhua National Press Agency in Hong Kong, a spy nest. His immediate superior was Xu Jiatun, former Party Secretary in Jiangsu and a member of the CPC Central Committee. Hong Kong's Xinhua branch answered directly to the Central Committee. It must be said that Li Chuwen played an important role in the smooth transfer of sovereignty in Hong Kong to China.[iii]

Some Catholics have also been involved in the Party’s control of religions. The late Mgr Aloysius Jin Luxian, former auxiliary bishop of Shanghai, in his book about his personal life, reveals some aspects of his submission to Party authorities.[iv]

Before his return to Shanghai – on the orders of the Ministry of Public Security – he worked as a translator for an agency in Baoding, 140 km south of Beijing. From there, he regularly visited Beijing, staying at Beijing Hotel (at the time, the capital’s most luxurious hotel), to meet the Director General of the Political Protection Office in the Ministry of Public Security, i.e. the top body in the country’s political police before the creation of the State Ministry of Security.

Mgr Jin also had the opportunity of meeting Ling Yun, then vice-minister in the same department, who was later appointed Security Minister after the department was set up in 1983. Obviously, these meetings – and banquets – were held in secret places.

These top secret agents presented Jin Luxian to the State Administration for Religious Affairs in 1982, before he left Baoding for Shanghai where he became rector of the Inter-regional Seminary in Sheshan (Shanghai). The idea of setting up a seminary followed a decision by the government and was aimed at training priests who could continue building an independent Chinese Church.

This explains why, in the 1980s, when Chinese borders were almost closed, Jin Luxian could travel abroad and become the official bishop of Shanghai. Everything was done from the point of view of state security. Undoubtedly the authorities used Jin Luxian as an agent dressed up as priest and then a bishop. Of course, everything also depended on his eminent intellectual skills and consciousness.

It must also be said that, in his youth, Mgr Jin received a solid ecclesial priestly training and spent several years in a Communist prison.

Today, more than in the past, it is perhaps easier for Chinese authorities to find some priest who is willing to "collaborate" and offer himself as a candidate for the episcopate. Quite a few men have in fact entered seminaries on government orders.

Lao Gao (老高)

May 2018


china, vatican, religious freedom, episcopal appointments, catholic church, buddhis, protestants, three authonomies movement


[i] See the eulogy dedicated to him in the article (in Chinese) published by the People's Daily (31 May 2000).

[ii] See article (in Chinese) in the Gospel Times (in Chinese) of 17 July 2015.

[iii] See the article (in Chinese) in the Shanghai Observer of 12 April 2018, which highlights his contribution to the Party as a "hidden cell".

[iv] In The Memoirs of Jin Luxian (Chinese edition: 绝处逢生: 金鲁贤 回忆录 上 卷 1916-1982), p 179, he mentions the series of contacts with senior officials in the Ministry of Public Security.

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