Christian citizens in China who receive social welfare payments have been ordered to abandon their faith or risk losing government support, according to a new report.
The policy impacts low-income religious citizens who receive government assistance, according to Bitter Winter, a watchdog that monitors reports of persecution in China.
Multiple cities and towns across the country have implemented the policy.
In April, officials from several villages in Shanxi province were called together for a meeting and ordered by the government “to remove crosses, religious symbols and images from the homes of people of faith who receive social welfare payments” and replace them with portraits of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong (1893-1976) and current President Xi Jinping.
A Christian in one of the villages told Bitter Winter that officials tore down Christian imagery in his home and hung a picture of Zedong.
“Impoverished religious households can’t receive money from the state for nothing – they must obey the Communist Party for the money they receive,” the Christian told Bitter Winter.
A house church pastor said village officials visited his home in May and replaced a cross with a picture of Zedong.
“All impoverished households in the town were told to display Mao Zedong images,” the pastor said. “The government is trying to eliminate our belief and wants to become God instead of Jesus.”
In Jiangxi province, government officials withdrew a monthly disability allowance and a living subsidy from a man who is disabled and Christian.
“Officials told me that we would be treated as anti-Party elements if my husband and I continued attending worship services,” the man’s wife told Bitter Winter.
Sometimes, there’s little warning.
A Christian elderly woman in her 80s lost her government assistance after she said “thank God” while receiving her subsidy in January. She lives in Jiangxi province.
“They expected me to praise the kindness of the Communist Party instead,” she said.
Government officials in Shangqiu city in the province of Henan cancelled the government assistance for an elderly woman in her 70s after they discovered a cross image on her door.
“They tore it down immediately,” the elderly Christian told Bitter Winter. “Afterward, both my minimum living allowance and poverty alleviation subsidy were canceled. I am being driven to a dead end. I have diabetes and need injections regularly.”
Said a neighbor, “This little money she received from the government was her bread and butter. But it has been canceled because of a cross image, causing great harm to this woman.”
Photo courtesy: Pixabay
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.