Last month, Chinese communist apparatchiks agreed they would rewrite seminal religious texts — almost certainly including the Bible, the Quran, and others — in its attempt to make religion more Chinese and more socialist.
As Britain’s Daily Mail reported, China will create new editions of religious books excluding any content that contradicts the teachings of the Communist Party. Any paragraphs the government deems anti-Communist or too foreign will be amended or re-translated o support the regime.
The Communist Party called for a “comprehensive evaluation of the existing religious classics aimed at contents which do not conform to the progress of the times.” Apparatchiks gave the order in November during a meeting of the Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs at the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
A group of 16 experts, believers, and representatives of different religions from the Communist Party’s Central Committee attended the conference, and the religious censorship meeting was supervised by Wang Yang, chairman of the People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Wang called on members of the conference to follow President Xi Jinping’s instructions to interpret religious beliefs in accordance with “the core values of Socialism” and “the requirements of the era.” Xi repeated previous instructions to build “a religious system with Chinese characteristics.” In 2017, the president had declared that religion should be “Chinese in orientation.”
Chillingly, the representatives of the religions at the meeting gladly went along with the Orwellian censorship, saying the mission “is the choice of history.” They also said that by “re-evaluating” religious books, they would prevent “extreme thoughts” and “heretical ideas.”
The censorship plans “show how manipulative the Chinese government is, hypocritically allowing certain religions to operate in China but only strictly with what content the Chinese government allows,” Patrick Poon, China Researcher at Amnesty International, told the Daily Mail. “In many ways, the Chinese government’s control, including censorship of the Bible and the Quran, has twisted the doctrines of these religious texts and thus the religions. There is simply no genuine religious freedom.”
This news comes amid the ongoing scandal of Chinese oppression of the Uighurs in the far-western province of Xinjiang. The Communist Party runs a system of detention camps aimed at re-educating Muslims. Former detainees claim they were forced to eat pork and speak Mandarin. After denying the camps’ existence, China later claimed the camps were “vocational education centers.”
Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said leaked documents proved that Chinese authorities were engaged in massive and systemic repression of Muslims and other minorities. The Chinese embassy in London called the documents “pure fabrication and fake news.”
In 2017, China attempted to ban performances of Handel’s Messiah. While the communist regime allows an official state church that represents a watered-down version of Christianity, it persecutes Christians in a variety of ways. In 2017, China forced Christians to take down posters of Jesus and replace them with posters of Xi Jinping. Last year, the regime launched coordinated raids against a church, blocking Christians’ social media accounts before arresting them.
Even so, Christianity is spreading rapidly in the Middle Kingdom.
Censorship of the Bible, the Quran, and other religious texts in order to make them “conform to the progress of the times” is chilling. It seems oddly reminiscent of the Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who sacrificed a pig to Zeus in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, inspiring the Maccabean revolt — an uprising celebrated every year in the festival of Hanukkah. China’s action also mimics the rush of LGBT activists to reinterpret the Bible to support their morality.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.