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Chinese parents ordered to denounce religion

The authorities in Wenzhou city in eastern China have carried out anti-Christian campaigns for years
A Chinese boy walks through the aisle during a Mass at a Catholic church in a village near Beijing on Holy Saturday, April 3

A Chinese boy walks through the aisle during a Mass at a Catholic church in a village near Beijing on Holy Saturday, April 3. (Photo: Jade Gao/AFP)

Published: March 22, 2023 10:57 AM GMT
Updated: March 22, 2023 11:13 AM GMT

Chinese authorities have asked parents of children in kindergartens to sign a pledge denouncing religious beliefs, a directive that violates the right to religious freedom guaranteed in the communist nation’s constitution, says a rights group.

Kindergartens in Longwan district in Wenzhou city of the Zhejiang province in eastern China issued directives to the guardians of students to sign a “Pledge Form of Commitment for Family not to hold a religious belief,” China Aid reported on March 20.

A kindergarten teacher in Wenzhou on the condition of anonymity stated that the mandate came as a surprise as religious restrictions were placed only on kindergartens and not on the parents or children.

“In the past, the higher-level education department made it compulsory for kindergartens not to be superstitious and not to participate in cult organizations but did not mandate kindergarten children’s families not to believe in religion or participate in any religious activities,” the teacher said.

According to the conditions of the pledge, parents undertook to not hold any religious belief, participate in any religious activities, and “not propagate and disseminate religion in any locations.”

The pledge also stated that parents would engage in “exemplary observance of the [Communist] Party discipline and the country’s laws and regulations, never join any Falun Gong and other cult organizations.”

Falun Gong is a religious movement founded by Li Hongzhi in China in the early 1990s. It bases itself on a combination of meditation and body movement exercises while emphasizing morality and the cultivation of virtue and identifies itself as following the Buddhist school of thought.

Chinese government listed Falun Gong as an “evil cult” in 1999. Since the ban, the group has been brutally suppressed by the state and its members allegedly became victims of state-sponsored organ trafficking.

In Wenzhou, where Christians make up a sizable chunk of the population, the government unleashed a flurry of restrictions and persecution against the community, media reports say. As of 2018, the city is home to some 150,000 Catholics.

In 2014, the authorities launched a large-scale cross-demolition campaign that lasted for two years, China Aid reported.  Allegedly more than 2,000 crosses were demolished with the authorities often claiming the structures were illegally constructed.

This included the demolition of the main sanctuary of the Protestant Sanjiang Church after nearly a month-long standoff with congregants over the legality of the structure.

In 2017, the government banned the city’s hospital employees, school lecturers, and all civil servants from entering churches for prayer and worship.

In 2021, the Vatican-approved Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou Diocese was released after being detained for the sixth time.

The censorship of the local authorities has even made it illegal to organize religious activities for minors in the area.

The order to sign a pledge denouncing religion was also issued in Xiaoshan district of Hangzhou city in Zhejiang on Feb. 15, China Aid reported.

In the government-run Tianle Kindergarten, the teachers were encouraged to “stay firm to [the Chinese Communist Party’s] ideals and beliefs, do not hold a religious belief, and do not propagate religious beliefs.”

The teachers signed a pledge form stating that they will not believe in religion and will put an end to religious beliefs, media reports say.

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