Xi Jinping’s sinicization, the new Cultural Revolution dear to Mao Zedong

Contribution of Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, to the debate at the conference “Diplomatic Boycott of the Winter Olympics in China” held at the Press Club in Brussels on 4 January

HRWF (05.01.2022) – On the eve of the Winter Olympic Games to be held in China, this conference and the protest demonstrations simultaneously held in Geneva, Berlin, Brussels and Antwerp are welcome to raise awareness about the egregious human rights violations for which China has been responsible for years and decades, especially under the rule of Xi Jinping.


Under the guise of Sinicization, Xi Jinping has reinforced the full control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over all sectors of society. This is what we would call totalitarianism.


What is sinicization?


Sinicization is a word used at least since the 17th century that indicated the assimilation of minorities in the Chinese empire into Chinese culture and language.


The same term was adopted by Nationalist China to signify the effort to replace the foreigners who managed business, religions and civil society organizations by Chinese citizens.


The CCP, however, gives a different meaning to the word “sinicization”. It is not sufficient that organizations operating in China, including religions and churches, have Chinese leaders. In order to be accepted as “sinicized,” they should have leaders selected by the CCP and operate within a framework of strategies and objectives indicated by the CCP.


In Tibet and Xinjiang, however, the CCP pursues a policy of “sinicization” in the traditional sense of the word, trying to assimilate Uyghurs Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists into the Chinese Communist culture.


On 3-4 December last, Xi Jinping personally presided on the first National Conference on Work Related to Religious Affairs that the CCP had held since 2016. He spoke at the Conference and asked for a more in-depth study of Karl Marx’s texts on religion by all those involved in the management of religious activities in China. He also reiterated that Sinicization of religion means its alignment with the CCP’s principles, goals, and directions, and lamented that the process he started with the 2016 conference is not advancing quickly enough.


In the name of “sinicization”, millions of Uyghur Muslims are deprived of their freedom to be politically educated or reeducated in camps against their will, women are massively sterilized, hundreds of thousands of Han people are introduced in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to make the Uyghur community a minority on its own historical lands and young Uyghur students are schooled in other regions far away from their cultural, linguistic and religious roots.


In the name of “sinicization”, Tibetan Buddhists are also deprived of their culture, their traditions, their language, their religion and any access to their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Their monasteries and numerous statues of Buddha have been and continue to be destroyed. The objective is to make Buddhism and any religion invisible in the public space.


“Sinicization” is a form of resurgence of the Cultural Revolution carried out by Mao Zedong from 1966 until his death in 1976 which devastated the then Chinese society. The common objective of Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping is the reinforcement of Communism by eradicating the historical cultural and religious roots of their ethno-religious minorities and by purging the country of Western elements. And Christianity is one of those “foreign agents” perceived by the CCP as a threat to its leadership.


The sinicization of Christians


As long as Christianity cannot disappear from China, its churches are to be “sinicized,” which means to “adapt to the socialist society” and to be placed under the authority of state organs controlled by the CCP, such as the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement. 

Concretely, it is the CCP who appoints the leaders and pastors of Protestant Churches. Concerning the Catholic Church, it is the Chinese government who proposes candidates to be appointed as bishops who are then to be confirmed by the Vatican.

Those who try to evade the Communist sinicization and to operate outside this framework, in so-called house churches for example, are arrested and sentenced to heavy prison terms, as we regularly report in our newsletters. Examples:


  • From October 14 to November 23 last year, the CCP authorities carried out a wanton crackdown against meetings of  Church of Almighty God members in several cities and arrested over two hundred of them in 40 days.


  • On 25 October last, a Chinese Catholic bishop, Peter Shao Zhumin, who had been arrested five times since 2016 for refusing to cut ties with the Vatican was taken away by authorities.

The official reason for his arrest and his whereabouts remain unknown but the real reason is his allegiance to the Vatican.

  • In November last, a Christian couple have each been sentenced to seven years in prison and a heavy fine of RMB 250,000 (approximately £29,240) for allegedly “illegal business operations.” In reality, the couple’s registered printing company had produced a large number of Christian books before being seized by the local authorities.


  • In a Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Church in northeast China’s Liaoning Province, there is a library to promote the education of believers. Its shelves have been filled with all kinds of secular books, including biographies of Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and other Chinese communist leaders, a series of books on the battles of World War II and the “red revolution.”
  • In several parts of China, limitations and prohibitions are introduced for the celebration of Christmas, including in places of worship of the government-controlled Catholic and Protestant churches, in the framework of the implementation of directives on “Sinicization” of Christianity, which forbid “Western” celebrations. Hotels are also penalized for hosting Christmas events.

A previous panelist, Ben Rogers from Hong Kong Watch, has shown us how Beijing is currently putting an end to the “One country, two systems” status enjoyed by Hong Kong and replacing it by “One country one system”. The absorption of Christianity, Buddhism and Islam under the pretext of “sinicization” follows the same logic: to engulf religions into Communism with so-called Chinese characteristics, to neutralize them, to catch and to revel in their souls. The next target on the agenda of Xi Jinping is certainly Taiwan.


The diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympic Games in China will show which countries, which heads of states, which political parties and which politicians are on the side of democracy and human rights or on the side of totalitarianism and join the Axis of Shame.

Photo: Xi Jinping – asialyst.com

Further reading about FORB in China on HRWF website