Chinese Christian villagers urged to replace portraits of Jesus with Xi Jinping to escape poverty

Return of the personality cult?

By Kayla Wong | November 14, 2017

Swapping posters of Jesus for portraits of President Xi Jinping can help one get a ticket out of poverty.

That was the message sent to thousands of Christians in Poyang, Yugan county in Jiangxi province, by local government officials administering a poverty-relief programme that seeks to “transform believers in religion into believers in the party”.

Swapping Jesus for Xi

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), a local social media account reported over the weekend that officials visited poor Christian families in Yugan’s Huangjinbu township to promote the party’s poverty-relief policies.

The SCMP report said that the campaign was started in March, and that it focuses on teaching Christian families the concern Xi and the Communist Party has for their well-being.

The report said that the officials had successfully “melted the hard ice in their hearts” and “transformed them from believing in religion to believing in the party”.

Adopting a practice reminiscent of the era of the personality cult surrounding late chairman Mao Zedong, whose portraits were once commonplace in Chinese homes, more than 600 villagers “voluntarily” got rid of the religious text and paintings they had in their homes, and replaced them with 453 portraits of Xi.

Photo via Lvv2.com
Photo via Lvv2.com

The SCMP report said that the campaign was started in March, and that it focuses on teaching Christian families the concern Xi and the Communist Party has for their well-being.

The social media report has since disappeared on Monday afternoon, but the campaign was confirmed by local villagers and officials contacted by the SCMP.

Trust the Communist Party

Yugan county is known equally for its poverty and its large Christian community. According to official data, more than 11 per cent of its 1 million residents live below the country’s official poverty line, with nearly 10 per cent of its population being Christian.

By some estimates, Christians in China now outnumber the 90 million members of the party.

The person in charge of the township’s poverty-relief drive dismissed claims that the funds were dependent on the removal of the religious posters.

He said that the villagers were only asked to take down the religious posters in the centre of the home, and were still free to hang them in other rooms.

“They still have the freedom to believe in religion, but in the minds they should [also] trust our party.”

Tightening control of religion

The one-party state has been known to crackdown on religious practices, such as banning Xinjiang parents from encouraging their children into religious practices, ordering places of worship to remove crosses from their buildings, and even demolishing several churches in Wenzhou, a city often referred to as “China’s Jerusalem”.

The move reflects the tightening control of religion, especially Islam and Christianity, under Xi.

Members and officials of the Communist Party of China are forbidden from joining any religion, as believing in communism and atheism is required to become a Party member.

Top image via Lvv2.com

About Kayla Wong

Kayla's dog runs her life.

Morning Commute

Interesting stories to discuss with your colleagues in office later

Close