The constitution of the People's Republic of China -- Communist China, that is -- guarantees "freedom of religion". Yes, if you're a Chinese citizen, you're welcome to worship in any way, in any church, as long as it's "approved" by the Party. Example: the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a schismatic "church" set up by the comrades after the 1949 revolution.
If, however, you're a Catholic who wants to be in communion with Rome, you risk being arrested, imprisoned, tortured, even executed. See "Cardinal Zen: Vatican appeasement hurts true Church in China" and "Church refuses to see tyranny of Chinese communism: Cardinal Zen".
This week saw yet another example of the "freedom of religion" enjoyed by Catholics in China. Communist officials in Wenzhou -- a city known as "China's Jerusalem" -- have removed some statues and bricked over others at Longgang Hill, a famous Catholic pilgrimage site.
The New Zealand Herald passes on a report from UCA News that government workers sealed off the holy site, and used bricks to "hide" statues portraying moments from the Passion of Christ, including the Crucifixion. Statues of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, each weighing up to five tons, were "bricked around to hide them from public view" while cranes were used to remove other holy statues and tablets from the park. All other religious decoration was demolished.
But it's not just the Catholics who are being targeted. Officials in Zhejiang province (of which Wenzhou is the capital) have begun a campaign against all Christian institutions and recently demolished Sanjiang church, a large Protestant church that was a member of the Communist association of Protestant churches. The church had recently become a symbol of resistance to the Communist Party's draconian anti-religious policies.
Christians accuse Communist Party leaders of trying to slow the growth of the Faith by destroying churches deemed too "conspicuous". The "anti-church" campaign reflects Beijing's extreme discomfort with the rapid spread of Christianity in China, which one leading academic recently predicted could have the largest Christian congregation in the world by 2030.
But it's not just the Christians who are being targeted. The Communist government also fears the Uighurs, the largest of China's ethnic minorities, who comprise more than half the population of Xinjiang, and significant percentages of the people of neighbouring provinces. The Uighurs are Muslims, which to the Beijing government means "terrorists", actual or potential.
Then there's Tibet, where most ethnic Tibetans have the temerity to cling to their form of Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is their spiritual leader, and they hope and pray for his return and for the independence of their country, which was invaded and annexed by China in 1950. That makes the Tibetans (along with the Uighurs), "splittists", in the eyes of the Communist authorities.
Those ungrateful Buddhists... and Muslims... and Catholics! They don't seem to appreciate the freedoms they enjoy under the constitution of the People's Republic of China. Why must they be so damn inscrutable?! Why do they have to have any religion at all?! Better to believe there is no god but the Party! Will they ever learn?