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ICC NOTE: In a recent meeting which took place over the weekend between Chinese President Xi Jinping and the various religious groups/non-communist entities, the president issued the decree that members must be “ardent Marxist Atheists.” According to Amnesty International, while atheism has been the ‘religion’ of choice for the Communist Party of China it has not been included in the party decrees on a vast scale for the past two to three decades. Now it has been supported by the highest office in the country making the move quite significant. With the Jinping making such a statement not only for the party’s consumption, but that of the religious groups in attendance, the hope the crackdown on the Christian community would slow down will likely not occur. 

4/25/2016 China (Time) – Li Jiangong and his wife Ding Cuimei stood in front of the bulldozer in a last-ditch protest. A government-backed firm had ordered the demolition of the small church they ran in Zhumadian, in eastern China’s Henan province, on April 14. In the end, the workmen simply ran over the couple, burying them in a deep pit. Li somehow managed to dig himself out, according to the religious-advocacy group China Aid, but Ding suffocated in the dark earth.

“Bulldozing and burying alive Ding Cuimei, a peaceful and devout Christian woman, was a cruel, murderous act,” said China Aid president Bob Fu in a statement. “This case is a serious violation of the rights to life, religious freedom and rule of law.”

Two workmen have apparently been detained in connection with the incident, though no names or charges have so far been released. While Ding’s death is an extreme example, it is clear that there is a widespread attack on religious institutions in China. More than 1,700 churches have had their crosses torn down in the country’s east, according to activists, and many have been completely demolished. Muslims in China’s far-western state of Xinjiang have been hit with bans on beards, veils as well as fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Religious sects like the Falun Gong have long complained of persecution.

On Saturday, President Xi Jinping indicated there would be no easing of this crackdown, telling a Beijing conference on religion that China must be vigilant against what are seen as pernicious foreign religious influences. “We must resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means and prevent ideological infringement by extremists,” he said,according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The constitution of officially atheist China promises “freedom of religious belief.” In practice, that freedom is severely curtailed: there are only five accepted creeds in China — Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant — and even then must operate under the control and scrutiny of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Chinese Catholic church doesn’t officially recognize the authority of the Pope, for instance, and you will not find any overt reference to the Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama — decried by Beijing as a dangerous separatist — in Buddhist temples. Besides the influence of foreign patriarchs, Beijing is also worried about ISIS-inspired attacks by Uighur separatists in Xinjiang, to the democratic values espoused by American pastors, and the self-immolation of Tibetan monks.

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