Members of the congregation at a Catholic church in Beijing. Photo: AFP / Wang Zhao

Religion has again come under fire in China as the Communist Party government tightens its grip on what is believes to be “Western infiltration.”

In a speech earlier this week, Xu Xiaohong, the head of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, said there were major problems with Christianity in the country.

Citing “infiltration” from abroad and “private meeting places,” Xu said in remarks reported by the state-run United Front Work Department on Tuesday:

“It must be recognized that our movement’s surname is ‘China’ and not ‘Western’.

“Anti-China forces in the West are trying to continue to influence China’s social stability and even subvert our country’s political power through Christianity, and it is doomed to fail.

“For individual black sheep who, under the banner of Christianity, participate in subverting national security, we firmly support the country to bring them to justice.”

Xu also called for the elimination of the “stigma of foreign religion” in China’s Christianity, Reuters news agency reported.

“Only by continually drawing on the fine traditions of Chinese culture, can China’s Christianity be rooted in the fertile soil of Chinese culture and become a religion recognized by the Chinese themselves,” Xu added.

Restrictions on religion have attracted concern in the United States. Last week, during a visit to Hong Kong, Sam Brownback, the United States ambassador for Religious Freedom, called on Beijing to end this persecution.

He claimed that China was waging “war with faith” and that it needed to respect the “sacred right” of people to worship, especially Muslims locked up in internment camps in Xinjiang.

China immediately denied this, calling the program in the far western region of Xinjiang as de-radicalization.

Still, major Western human rights organizations have warned that an estimated one million Uighur Muslims have been rounded up and detained in internment camps since 2017.

In a review last year, the United Nations Human Rights Council singled out China’s policies in Xinjiang and Tibet, and its treatment of human rights defenders.

It called on Beijing to release detained Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, protect religious freedoms in Tibet, and stop harassing and detaining human rights lawyers.

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