An international Christian rights group said recent developments in China “signaled heightened control” of the Chinese Communist Party over state-sanctioned Churches in the country.
The International Christian Concern (ICC) cited the release early this month of a report titled “Joint Initiative on Advocating Frugality and Abstaining from Extravagance” by registered Christian organizations.
On June 8, China’s seven state-sanctioned religious bodies issued a joint initiative “advocating frugality and abstaining from extravagance” to promote the Sinicization of religion.
Among those who signed the statement are the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the China Christian Council, and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee.
The joint statement discouraged “extravagance” among Christian leaders and called for frugality to avoid “damaging the social image of religion and hindering the further advancement of the Sinicization of Christianity in China.”
ICC claimed that anyone who disobeys the regulations “risks possible punishment.”
The report also advised the faithful to practice a green, low-carbon lifestyle, and worship in eco-friendly spaces, consistent with the government’s initiative to provide a carbon-neutral environment.
“The CCP relies on its state-vetted churches to further its Sinicization mission by pressuring believers to conform to the party’s standards,” read the ICC report.
It said that because registered Churches are under the direct influence of the Chinese government, “unregistered Churches and believers are under constant scrutiny as they continue to practice their faith.”
The joint statement said that even as religious organizations all over China “have adhered to strict and comprehensive education and achieved results … unhealthy tendencies … have spread in the religious field, corrupted the religious atmosphere, (and) damaged the social image of religion.”
Among the “unhealthy tendencies” identified are “extravagance, collecting money through religion, and wastefulness in spending.” The statement said these ”hindered further” the advancement of the Sinicization of Christianity.