The sizable Christian population of China — including members of both “legal” Communist Party-controlled churches and illicit “house churches” seeking a private prayer space — faces significant persecution if found to be “too enthusiastic” in celebrating Christmas, David Curry, the president and CEO of Global Christian Relief, told Breitbart News in a recent conversation.
All Chinese citizens are forced to participate in what the Communist Party refers to as the “social credit system,” in which the Party scores each individual based on revolutionary fervor and loyalty to genocidal communist dictator Xi Jinping. Faith generally, Curry explained, indicates to the government a loyalty to a higher power than Xi and can thus hurt a person’s social credit score. As a result, most Chinese Christians will likely quietly observe the Christmas holiday at home, fearing retribution from their regime.
“The government will tell you that people are free to practice their religion and to celebrate Christmas, but they’re also scored on their social system as radical,” he noted. “It’s a negative to be too enthusiastic about your faith because the preeminence for them is the Communist Party.”
“So if people are celebrating quietly, there’s very little chance they’re going to be harassed, but any public demonstrations around Christmas, and large church movements to celebrate Christmas, will certainly be monitored,” he continued, “and potentially hurt the social score of those people who are involved.”
“When you start talking about social scores … if you have enough points against you, you’re not going to be able to travel, you may lose your job, etc.,” Curry explained. “So they definitely see practicing faith and celebrating these kinds of significant religious holidays as a negative.”
The social credit system, as explained by Chinese propaganda outlets, is meant to punish “uncivilized” behavior. Common examples cited in outlets such as the state-run Global Times include people eating on crowded public transportation, littering, or failing to pay to park their cars in areas that have local fees. The Global Times boasted in 2019 that the system would “restore morality” in the country by incentivizing better citizenship.
In reality, the social credit system punishes essentially any behavior considered dissenting from Communist Party orthodoxy. Believing in any religion aside from the state could be a cause for a lower score, as Chinese law prohibits a wide variety of normal religious behavior, such as bringing someone under 18 to a religious service or worshipping outside of a Party-controlled institution.
The consequences of a low social credit score are severe. In 2019, the government boasted that it had blacklisted 13 million people, barring them from public transportation and depriving them of select social services.
In September, the Christian human rights group China Aid reported that it had evidence that China was building a separate sector of its social credit system to judge the faithful in Shandong, subjecting them to more rigorous standards of alleged morality.
China allows citizens to adhere to only five religions: Party-controlled Catholicism, Protestantism (the “Three-Self Patriotic Church”), Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam.
The true Christian population of China is unclear, as many Christians are believed to hide their identity out of fear of persecution. International Christian Concern (ICC) noted in mid-December that estimates range from 85 to 128 million Christians — the latter being a greater number than the number of members of the Communist Party. The Pew Research Center published a survey on December 12 using Chinese government statistics claiming that a surge in the number of Christians in China appeared to abruptly end around 2010. Prior to the publication of recent statistics, Pew observed, some estimates of the population suggested “Christians are on track to make up a majority of the population there by 2050.”
Xi Jinping became “president” in 2013 and immediately began a campaign to “Sinicize” religion, forcing faith groups to adopt their beliefs to communism and surrender to his authority over their leaders. Xi’s reign has been marked by the violent destruction of churches — including bulldozing Christians along with their churches — forcing families to replace images of Jesus in their homes with his own face, and ominous warnings that “Christianity does not belong in China.”
Facilitating this repression is the establishment of a pervasive surveillance infrastructure that renders it nearly impossible to attend a church service or pray without being caught on camera. As of March, attending a church service in some provinces requires explicit government permission through registration on a “Smart Religion” mobile phone application.
In the rare case that someone does manage to avoid a camera, Chinese authorities actively encourage communist supporters to spy on their neighbors and “report illegal religious activities” to the Party.
“The monitoring has become so sophisticated and Covid I think sped that up,” David Curry of Global Christian Relief told Breitbart News, referring to the massive house arrest and quarantine camp scheme Xi branded “zero-covid” during the pandemic. “The ability to justify locking people in their homes for long periods of time but under the auspices of Covid, that practice continues in pockets … the ability to not leave your home, or get into your home if you do leave, is very real and they’re monitoring you everywhere you go.”