“Thank the Lord? Where is the Lord? You have to work to live, though. You should thank the Party and the government,” an actor playing the role of a CCP village secretary was speaking from the stage in Fenyi county in Xinyu, a prefecture-level city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi.
The play, which tells a story of a Christian family that has been lifted from poverty thanks to the government support, has been touring the county’s villages since the end of 2019. Villagers are urged by local officials to come and see the performance.
“The Xinyu city government invited our troupe to perform. We were asked to promote the idea that the Communist Party is good, and believing in God is superstitious because those who do are ‘unfortunate victims’ and must abandon their faith,” a staff member in the troupe told Bitter Winter. “We’ve directed and launched the play with all costs covered by the government.”
Similar propaganda performance are being staged in the form of operas, stage-plays, and skits all over China, pressuring people to replace their religious beliefs with worshiping of the Communist Party.
In one of the skits, a Party secretary visits an ill Christian and asks him: “Can Christianity really cure people, alleviate poverty, and help them become rich?” He then goes on to say that only the support and care by the CCP helps people to be cured. Other propaganda performances claim that Christianity does not allow believers to seek medical care or earn a living.
Video: In a skit vilifying Christianity, a Party secretary says: “Can Christianity really cure people? Can it help you alleviate poverty and become rich?”
A member from a troupe performing in Lefeng town in Jiangxi’s Poyang county told Bitter Winter that their play promotes CCP’s anti-religion policies. “The aim is to make people grateful to the Party and to follow its lead,” he said, adding that they had performed in more than a dozen villages since June 2019.
“There is a scene in the skit showing a cross being taken down; it’s painful for religious people,” a Christian who watched the performance said. “The government wants us to abandon our faith, makes us believe in the Communist Party only.”
Cracking down on religious activities in rural areas was designated as one of the primary tasks for local authorities in the CCP’s so-called No. 1 Central Document issued in 2018, entitled Opinions on the Implementation of the Strategy of Rural Vitalization. Since then, the CCP has adopted a series of documents targeting religions in villages and communities as one of the primary threats to the stability of the regime.
Article 15 of the Regulations on the Work in Rural Areas Conducted by the Chinese Communist Party that came into force on August 19, 2019, calls to “resolutely ban all forms of illegal religious propagation activities and consolidate the power at rural grass-roots levels.”
According to the document entitled Dealing with the Serious Problems of the Religious Situation, issued by a county government in the central province of Henan in early 2019, “religion is vying against the Party in every field for ideological territory and people’s hearts,” which has become a problem that the government needs to resolve urgently. To halt “the spread of Christianity through vast rural areas,” the document mandates to “organize various cultural activities; extensively launch ‘Happy Sundays,’ events promoting culture, science and technology, and health in rural areas, and other activities; organize cultural events during religious holidays and on Sundays to eliminate the influence of religion.”
While boycotting religion, authorities have been ramping up their efforts to promote the Party’s policies and President Xi Jinping’s leadership, to assert their unshakable position in rural areas. During a performance in Poyang’s Lefeng town, an anchor sang on stage: “Roll up your sleeves and work hard. Keep moving to challenge the world. China is getting greater and stronger. We are not afraid to sweat and shed blood. Follow Uncle Xi and just work hard.”
Video: An anchor sings, “Follow Uncle Xi and just work hard.”
When an audience member asked a village official if people could get back 50 percent of their expenses through a farming subsidy from the government, as advertised in the play, he laughed and said: “No way. The entire investment will be at your expense. Not a penny less. It’s just a performance, man. This is nothing but a political task.”
Using realities from people’s daily lives has long been used by the CCP to incite the masses to shun the Party’s “enemies” and indoctrinate them with its policies. During the Cultural Revolution, the opera “White-Haired Girl,” created in 1945 to raise people’s revolutionary spirits and incite their hatred toward landowners, was one of Mao Zedong’s personal favorites. Thanks to it, even today, the word “landlord” arises feelings of disgust among many elderly Chinese.
Wang Yong uses a pseudonym for security reasons. This article has been republished with permission from Bitter Winter, a website about religious freedom and human rights in China.