TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Several Christians in an indigent rural southeast China were urged to change posters of Jesus to the portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping as part of China's "poverty-relief program" and the effort to convert religious believers into communist believers, according to reports by Hong Kong's media.
In Yugan county of Jiangxi province in China, more than 11 percent of 1 million residents are reported to live below the country's official poverty line, while nearly 10 percent of its population is Christian.
These Christians, however, are said to have taken down images of Christ, the crosses, and the gospel couplets and hung portraits of Xi following the local government's directive to "tackle poverty."
Over the weekend, a Chinese media report revealed that some cadres visited poor Christian families in Yugan's Huangjinbu township to promote the party's poverty-relief policies and helped them solve their material problems. Consequently, more than 600 villagers "voluntarily" replaced the religious texts and paintings with 453 portraits of Xi.
This report soon disappeared, but the campaign was confirmed to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) by villagers and local officials in Yugan county.
In an interview with SCMP, Qi Yan, chairman of the Huangjinbu people's congress said the poverty-relief campaign had been running across the county since March to teach Christian families how much the party had done to help cope with poverty and how much concern Xi had shown for their well-being.
Meanwhile, a resident in Yugan surnamed Liu said that many villagers had been told to remove religious artifacts from their homes but not all did so voluntarily.
Under Xi, the ruling Communist Party has pushed forward a campaign top end poverty by 2020 and simultaneously tighten its control on religious freedom throughout China. Several Christian churches in eastern China and Islamic mosques in Xinjiang have been removed under the pretense of combating terrorism and separatism.