In a bid to contain poverty and ‘spread of Christianity’, Xi ‘replaces’ Jesus

A Chinese county has been inundated with posters of President Xi in a bid to curb the ‘spread of Christianity’.

At least 624 religious posters and paintings have come down and been replaced by 453 portraits of the Chinese leader in the village of Huangjinbu in the southeast province of Jiangxi recently, according to officials.

The officials claimed that the villagers voluntarily swapped their ‘Christian images’ with posters of Xi after they were informed about the policies of the ruling party regarding their welfare.

“The warmth [by the party officials] has melted the hard ice in the hearts of the masses, who are increasingly turning to the party, rather than the religion, in what they believe in,” according to an official account.

Once militantly hostile to any religion and determined to annihilate it, the atheist ruling Communist Party remains wary of beliefs that could compete for its influence and its demand for loyalty from its 89 million members.

It adopts hardline policies on the Muslim ethnic minority of Uighurs in the far west and on Tibetan Buddhists, restricting studies of the religious scripts among the local populace.

Beijing does not have formal relations with the Vatican, as the Chinese government insists it must approve clerical appointments within the country. Last month Xi told the party congress that religion must take on Chinese characteristics, which means it should take orders from the party.

Protestantism has grown rapidly in recent decades in China, and official data puts the number of registered members of the state-sanctioned Christian churches at between 23 million and 40 million.

However vast numbers of unregistered believers also meet in private homes. The US Pew Research Centre estimated there were 58 million Protestants in China in 2011. Other experts have suggested there could be more than 100 million.

Since 2014 Beijing has been removing rooftop crosses from churches in the eastern province of Zhejiang. In 2015 the authorities arrested a prominent Christian lawyer, who later confessed that he was driven by money to defend the churches and the religious symbol.

In the adjacent province of Jiangxi, the township of Huangjinbu means the port of gold, but despite its name, up to 10 per cent of its 58,500 residents live in poverty.

Many poor families, some with ill relatives, had resorted to believing in Jesus, Qi Yan, a local official, told the South China Morning Post.

“But we tried to tell them that getting ill is a physical thing and that the people who can really help them are the Communist Party and General Secretary Xi,” Mr Qi told the paper.

“Many rural people are ignorant. They think God is their saviour. After our officials’ work, they’ll realise their mistake and think, we should no long rely on Jesus but on the party for help.”

Xi has vowed to end poverty in China by 2020.

Mr Qi insisted the swapping of posters in family rooms was done out of goodwill, but a local pastor told the US-funded Radio Free Asia that the families changed the pictures to receive government aid money.

“For the sake of money, some said okay, okay, I won’t believe in Jesus,” the pastor, only identified by his last name Huang, told the radio station.

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