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A 'grey line' of communists lurked in China's churches

Their principles were 'keen-witted work but long-term hide; accumulate forces and await timing'
A 'grey line' of communists lurked in China's churches

Pendants with an image of late communist leader Mao Zedong hang in a stall in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on the eve of the 40th anniversary of his death, on Sept. 8. A Hong Kong academic has detailed how Mao's communist cadres infiltrated Christian communities with the aim of destroying them. (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP)

Published: September 18, 2018 04:25 AM GMT

Ying Fuk Tsang, director of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has long studied historical materials concerning Chinese Communist Party (CCP) underground members in Christian churches.

He recently disclosed how those underground members infiltrated Christian churches and organizations, saying that while they were well concealed, their existence was widespread.

On May 7, Professor Ying detailed his study at a seminar, jointly held by the Christian Study Center on Chinese Religion and Culture (CSCCRC) and the Center for Christian Studies of Hong Kong Chinese University. The title was "Christian and Communist in-between: unmasking concealed identities of Christians who were CCP's underground members as well."

His study was based on investigation of a large number of CCP historical documents and articles, which dealt with the organization of CCP underground members in churches.

Ying, at the seminar, introduced the term "line", which specifically referred to people or organizations working for the party.

The "line" was divided into "red line" and "grey line." The "red line" was an openly leftist organization or individual; while the "grey line" consisted of secret underground party members or organizations.

He added that the CCP attached great importance to the organizational structure. There was a central administration as well as administrative levels in provinces, cities, counties, villages and districts. And there was a further administrative party structure at specific locations such as state-owned enterprises and universities.

They were everywhere like God, Ying said.

The professor also quoted Psalm 139:7 to make a quip about the CCP, "Where can I flee from the party's (your) presence?"

"In China, especially before the reform and opening up of the country, the CCP was an organization which one could not flee from. And up to now, they will still encourage the establishment of more party organizations," Ying said.

He pointed out that three underground members could establish a party branch. "It is like the Bible says, when three people come together in the name of the Lord, He will be there," (Mt 18:20).

As the number of people increased, more branches or groups could be developed; however, there was no connection or communication among them, which was called "single-line communication; vertical leadership." Ying explained only members in the same branch or group knew each other and reported directly to the upper level so that even if a branch was exposed, other branches would not be embroiled.

Ying discovered that "grey lines" were found in national and local branches of the young men's and young women's Christian associations (YMCA and YWCA) along with Christian denominations and church-run universities as well as secondary and primary schools.

Their working principles were "keen-witted work but long-term hide; accumulate forces and await timing." They lurked for the long-term fight, with a strategy to destroy churches with a "strike" and "pull out" approach.

The "strike" was when CCP members infiltrated the churches disguised as Christians; while "pull out" identified persons who were in favor of the CCP within churches and got them to become party members.

He noted that, at the beginning of the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, young people in the YMCA and YWCA were concerned about what was happening in the nation. Those underground party members who had infiltrated the associations tried to denigrate or divide them. Young members of the associations were accused of only be interested in praying rather being patriotic. Another tactic was to foster disappointment with their church.


This is the second of three articles focusing on research carried out by Professor Ying Fuk-tsang about the Chinese Communist Party's efforts to infiltrate churches and church organizations. To read the first article click here.

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