This photo taken on May 30, shows children simulating a military drill at a kindergarten ahead of International Children's Day in Huaxian in China's central Henan province. (Photo by AFP)
China's United Front Work Department and State Administration for Religious Affairs have recently instructed religious venues not to run classes in any form for minors or students. The mandate was handed down at provincial and city levels nationwide.
The department, which according to a March 19 document plans to merge with the religious affairs bureau, also verbally conveyed instructions banning minors from entering religious venues. These orders have since been strictly implemented throughout central Henan province and in some dioceses in Hebei.
At first glance, this is merely an official enforcement of China's newly revised regulations on religious affairs.
The state's suppression of religious freedom has been criticized as a violation of the constitution. It also suggests the government is scared of what a well-informed and well-educated public will do despite its oppressive censorship and attempts to limit their access to information.
We need to make it clear that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been educating and ruling the populace with an obscurantist approach.
This begins with a style of education beginning at kindergarten level that some have rightly likened to brainwashing. It promotes atheism, distorted views of history and what we Christians would consider the wrong set of values.
Considering Christianity as the wellspring of a universally accepted set of values, the state fears that anyone who becomes "civilized" by familiarizing themselves with this religion would automatically recognize the party's values as being incorrect and therefore reject them.
The party hates to see its policies challenged, one of the key reasons why it has refocused its attention on minors and made this a top priority.
Secondly, the CCP has informed all religious sects that they now fall under its control. In fact, all religious affairs on the Chinese mainland must be carried out according to the state's rules and demands, even if this means going against their respective religious principles.
In addition to the prohibition on minors entering places of worship, the government of President Xi Jinping is also pressuring religious venues to raise the national flag have congregations sing the CCP's national anthem.
Moreover, everyone can be monitored on social media as China residents have to register their phones and SIM cards and sign up for messaging apps (user identification).
In Henan, spouses of civil servants have reportedly been asked to give up their faith or risk being subjected to a disciplinary investigation by their local commission. This is exactly the kind of thing the government did during the ill-fated Cultural Revolution (1966-76) in terms of attempting to crush or control religious freedom.
The party clearly plans to keep amping up its political suppression of religions, which, after all, can be considered political movements in their own right.
Chinese authorities have been banning minors from entering churches and religious venues and professing any belief in religion since March. Written warnings banning minors from entering religious venues are now commonplace, posted on their entrances or exterior walls. (Photo supplied)
Now, however, the CCP has brutally snatched away the rights of minors and students to broaden their intellectual spectrum and become better educated and, we may say, more civilized and self-aware.
Having been brainwashed from a very age by the party, young people will gradually find themselves more detached from any sense of religious faith and eventually become a group of "walking dead" ready and willing to be controlled and suppressed by the regime.
From the perspective of religious development on the mainland, people who have been brainwashed by the CCP are unlikely to accept any faith easily in the future — unless they have other reasons for doing so apart from taking an interest in, and accepting, the beliefs it espouses.
As a result, most Chinese people accept atheism, extreme nationalism, xenophobic ideas, a distorted sense of history, materialistic desires, a selfish and narrow-minded worldview, and Confucianism at the level of a feudal class system as normal, or par for the course. In other words, this obscurantist education benefits the CCP's style of governance and buttresses its political stability.
But this style of education will produce generations of uncivilized fools wholly focused on attending to their daily lives but never their rights or interests as human beings.
One could even go so far as to say they will forget some parts of themselves that are human, the parts that separate us from animals, leaving them as ignorant as pigs.
This sense of humanity is declining on the mainland as money fills the vacuum where faith should be, and people worship false idols as they chase the "Chinese Dream" while losing track of their morality.
Moreover, Chinese children are being robbed of their innocence and being made to conform to the party's ideology. They are taught to adhere to a uniform and unified way of thinking. It could even be said that the ultimate aim of the CCP's system of education is the mass production of generations of fools.
The party has been emphasizing this ideology so that the public follows it with blind loyalty. Ironically, this is exactly the kind of feudal way of thinking the CCP has always criticized. All the party has done is change the terminology. The rules are effectively the same, and they are being applied with force. This can only be described as an extreme act of ignorance on the part of the Chinese government.
Its obscurantist approach to education can only be carried out when information is closed off. But no matter how strong a firewall the government puts up, nothing can stop the truth from spreading in the digital age.
As we have seen in recent years, it has become increasingly convenient for mainland Chinese to obtain information, and the speed at which that information is being dissemination is getting faster and faster. Chinese no longer rely on information picked and channeled solely by the party. They are becoming wiser and more intellectual.
In particular, families have begun to pay more attention to their children's education, which will help to broaden the minds of the younger generation despite the government's attempts to stifle this. As such, it is becoming increasingly difficult to impose this kind of stunted education on young people.
Meanwhile, the Christian faith is bringing a new set of values to the Chinese public, who are no longer as hostile to Christianity as they were when the CCP's brainwashing tactics were at their peak.
The general public now seem to be, generally, more tolerant and more accepting of divergent views. By way of illustration, the number of youth classes organized by Christians is increasing on the mainland each year, and people are embracing them. This shows how the broader adoption of the Christian faith is having a civilizing effect on the Chinese public, if not their leaders.
Adopting tough political measures to suppress religion will not win the Communist Party the support of its people; rather, it will create more strife due to the rift between political and religious affairs in the country, leading to more cracks in the party's seemingly impenetrable defenses.
As history teaches us, no government that goes against the will of God comes to a good end.
Peter Lui is a journalist in China who writes about Catholic affairs.