Thousands of villagers in southeastern China have reportedly been called to replace their posters of Jesus Christ and other religious imagery with photographs of Chinese President Xi Jinping if they want assistance with poverty and illness relief.
The South China Morning Post reported that the suggestion by Chinese authorities to replace posters of Jesus with Xi hearkens back to the “personality cult” era of Chairman Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China.
It noted that Xi has made it his target to end poverty by 2020, with government officials visiting Christian families in poverty-stricken towns to convince them to fall in line with the Communist Party’s policies as a way to solve their material problems.
Qi Yan, chairman of the Huangjinbu people’s congress, explained the government’s initiative: “Many poor households have plunged into poverty because of illness in the family. Some resorted to believing in Jesus to cure their illnesses.”
“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.”
Qi further called Christians “ignorant” for believing that God is their savior.
The Huangjinbu township distributed more than 1,000 portraits of Xi, with several families reportedly choosing to hang them in their homes.
The official later insisted that the Communist Party has not been saying that all religious icons need to be taken down, and claimed that it supports the freedom of belief.
One resident of another township in Yugan revealed that officials have been urging believers to remove religious artifacts from their homes as well.
“Some families put up gospel couplets on their front doors during the Lunar New Year, some also hang paintings of the cross. But they’ve all been torn down,” the resident said.
He added that some believers did not do so voluntarily.
SOURCE: Stoyan Zaimov