Party members are asked to shun Christmas, religious festivals

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2017/12/21 19:38:39

A decorated Christmas tree is displayed in the business district of Central in Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday. Hong Kong is preparing to celebrate the Christmas holiday festivities. Photo: IC

The Public Security Bureau (PSB) of Hengyang, Central China's Hunan Province has stirred heated debate after it published a notice on December 14, telling Party members, government officials and their families not to celebrate Christmas and warned it would impose heavy fines on anyone who makes and sells artificial snow.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) does not separate political ideology from religious faith and experts say this means Party members, officials and their family members are required to only believe in communism.  The CPC's constitution includes a criterion for membership that requires new members to declare they are not worshipers of a religious faith.

The notice from the Hengyang PSB said the requirement is a bid to "build confidence towards socialist culture and carry forward traditional Chinese culture" and CPC members and officials should take the lead to "resist rampant Western festivals."

The notice also forbids relatives of Party members and officials from participating in celebration of religious festivals in order to "build a good image of Party members and government officials."

The notice also encourages students to hold a "rational attitude" toward these festivals and to avoid them.

The PSB in Hengyang warned that anyone who sells and makes artificial snow to create Christmas-like decorations will receive a heavy fine. It did not mention other types of Christmas decorations or how much a fine might be.

Hengyang is not the only jurisdiction to issue a notice on Christmas celebrations. A Beijing resident, who works in a State-owned company, told the Global Times she received a similar notice, "for the first time, never happened before," she said.

On Sunday, the China Communist Youth League (CCYL)'s Anhui division published an article on WeChat, discussing how China had been occupied by Western forces in the past and concluded that "Christmas is China's day of shame." It also said the rising popularity of Western festivals is a "cultural invasion" and if Party members and government officials failed to realize this, they had lost their political sensitivity.

Heated Discussion

The bans and criticism of Christmas sparked heated discussion on social media, with some netizen pointing out that "celebrating Christmas does not mean abandoning traditional Chinese customs."

Most Chinese people simply regard Christmas and other Western festivals as opportunities for family and friends to get together, not because they worship religion or Western culture, said a Party member surnamed Liu.

She said that such notices are an overreaction because it equates celebrating Western festivals with love of country.

Few people in China hold strong religious beliefs and of those who do only a small percentage are Christian.  Christmas in China is far more likely to be celebrated as a festive night, rather than a day of religious observance.

Supporters of the ban on Christmas celebrations have their reasons. "It is reasonable to exert such a ban on Party members and officials, who are required not to believe in any religion but only believe in communism. However, the ban should not extend to ordinary people," Zhu Lijia, a professor of public management at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told the Global Times.

Yet some universities have sought to ban students from celebrating Christmas. Last week an online notice, purported to be from the Communist Youth League of Shenyang Pharmaceutical University stated that the students' union, student associations and youth league branches are banned from holding any activities centered on Western religious holidays.

It said promotional activities by some businesses, have left some young people "blindly excited about Western holidays," especially Christmas.

In 2014, public schools in Wenzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province were forbidden from holding Christmas-related events after the city's education authorities announced a blanket ban covering all high schools, middle schools, primary schools and kindergartens.

According to China's Compulsory Education Law, no organizations or individuals may make use of religion to conduct activities designed to interfere with the educational system of the country.

Celebrating religious festivals is aimed at spreading religious ideas on campus, which not only violates the law but "threatens the safety of students once they go too far and lose themselves," said Zhu.

Cultural invasion?

The growing popularity of Christmas, and many other Western festivals such as Valentine's Day and Easter, has triggered controversy in recent years with many people suggesting the festivals are a "cultural invasion." Some say Western festivals are having a huge impact on traditional Chinese festivals and making people "lack confidence in our own culture."

Zhu thinks the opposite is true. He says daring to embrace foreign festivals shows Chinese culture is strong. "Absorbing other culture festivals will make ours better," he said.


Newspaper headline: No Cultural Invasion


Posted in: SOCIETY

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