With the possibility of a lifelong term for the president, what hope do Christians in China have?
This is the question on everyone’s mind as the National People’s Congress prepares to meet on Sunday, March 11, 2018, to eliminate term limits.
If this happens, President Xi Jinping, who assumed office in March 2013, will stay in power beyond 2023.
During his term, Christians have gone through a lot. From destroying churches to allegedly replacing images of Jesus Christ with that of the president, the religious rights of believers have been violated.
Reportedly, this is all part of the president’s national campaign launched in March 2013.
During his speech on China’s religious policy in April 2016, the New York Times reported that the president told Chinese Communist Party leaders that they must “resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means.”
A special report titled; “The Battle for China’s Spirit: Religious Revival, Repression, and Resistance under Xi Jinping,” covers what has been done to “guard against overseas infiltrations.”
Published Feb. 2017, Freedom House scholar, Sarah Cook writes, “By mid-2016, crosses had been removed from the rooftops or façades of least 1,500 churches, and over 20 churches had been demolished.
“It remains somewhat unclear what party leaders mean by Sinicization in practice, but some superficial changes have been observed. One of them involves “localizing” the architecture of churches, in effect reducing their public visibility.
“Under Xi … new legal mechanisms have codified previously informal restrictions. Crackdowns on unregistered and even state-sanctioned places of worship and religious leaders have increased, with several clerics receiving long prison terms. Constraints on children’s ability to participate in religious life have multiplied.”
Benedict Rogers, East Asia team leader for Christian Solidarity Worldwide adds: “Under President Xi, the overall level of religious freedom in the country has decreased.
“This downward trend fits into a broader pattern of increasing human rights abuses under President Xi, accompanied by and manifested through a shrinking space for civil society, a heightened sensitivity to perceived challenges to Party rule, and the introduction of legislation that curtails civil and political rights in the name of national security.”
With this clear disregard for basic religious rights, an extension of the President’s rule would only be bad news for Christians and Muslims in China.