The Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the official Protestant church of China, has pledged to follow Chinese Communist Party (CCP) directives on the management of religions, including supervision of churches and their finances.
The TSPM was one of seven state-authorised religious groups to sign a joint statement agreeing to implement policies outlined by China’s President Xi Jinping at the CCP’s National Conference of Religious Affairs in December 2021.
At the conference President Xi called for the implementation of Marxist policies on religion, increased online surveillance and tightening control of religion to ensure national security.
He emphasised the importance of “upholding the principle of developing religions in the Chinese context and providing active guidance for the adaptation of religions to socialist society”.
The seven groups agreed to implement a four-point agenda that includes strict adherence to regulations on religious affairs by religious groups and clergy, as well as to maintain Chinese characteristics, belief connotation and cultural forms of religious institutes and architecture.
Their statement also pledges to remove obstacles that hinder the Sinicisation (i.e. the making Chinese, according to the CCP’s teaching) of religion.
“We need to thoroughly implement the spirit of the National Conference of Religious Affairs and great speech of CCP general secretary Xi Jinping to effectively ‘curb and reverse’ the bad atmosphere pertaining to religions,” adds the statement.
The other signatory groups are the Chinese Buddhist Association, China Taoist Association, China Islamic Association, Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference and China Christian Council.
While the CCP is atheist, China’s constitution officially enshrines religious freedom and officially recognises five religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Taosim, Islam and Protestantism.
In June 2022 China introduced new measures governing the management of religious organisations’ finances, which increased state control over church revenues, local and foreign donations and expenses.
On 1 May 2021 new government regulations that increased state control over Christian ministry came into effect. These included the requirement that, in order to be registered, church leaders must support the leadership of the CCP and practise the core values of socialism.
In the same month authorities placed further restrictions on Christian content on social media.
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