Xi Jinping and new Committee members take the stage
Xi Jinping made a much-anticipated speech at the Communist Party conference today, a precursor to his almost certain confirmation as leader of the world’ most populous nation. Christians have expressed concern over the future direction of religion in China, despite Xi's previous leadership of key Christian provinces.
In what has been viewed as a landmark speech ahead of his expected 10 years in office, Xi gave a charismatic performance as the other six members of the Standing Committee – the central decision making body in the Chinese government – took the stage in Beijing’s Great of Hall.
“We will do everything we can to live up to your trust and to fulfill our mission,” he told party delegates.
Xi has previously held key government positions in Hebei, Fujian, Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai, which are among China's most heavily populated Catholic regions.
According to research sources, Hebei is home to nearly one million Catholics while Fujian is thought to have about 370,000 Catholics, Zhejiang more than 200,000 and Shanghai roughly 160,000.
In one of these provinces, a bishop who is not recognized by the government and declined to be identified said he did not expect the new leadership to enact any religious, social or political changes.
“The CPC officials often say one thing and do another. We have got accustomed to this,” he said. “This is not pessimistic but an objective reality of the country.”
The bishop said that Xi was not expected to translate his authority in provinces with large Catholic populations into central government policy that would ease China’s strict and often repressive relationship with Christians.
“What we can do now is continue our struggle for more religious freedom,” he said.
Christians in China have been blogging in speculation of the change of guard in Beijing, but most agree few improvements in religious freedom are expected.
“I do not see any sign that Xi has the will to make change,” said one Catholic blogger writing under the name 'Eleven'.
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