In the officially atheist nation, Chinese clergy often find themselves struggling between an intrusive government and their occupation. As an ongoing battle between Beijing and the Vatican heats up, political pressure on believers is becoming more intense. From Andrew Jacobs at the New York Times:
“If a Red Guard puts a knife to your throat and tells you to renounce your faith, what should you do?” he asked the five dozen initiates, all of them weeks away from baptism. After an awkward silence, Father Liu blurted out the answer: “Never give it up,” he said, his eyes widening for effect. “Your devotion should be to God above all else.”
Such sentiments might be a mainstay of Christian belief but they border on treasonous in China, an officially atheist state that demands fealty to the Communist Party. The pope might be a ranking minister, but according to the party’s thinking, President Hu Jintao is Catholicism’s supreme leader, at least here in China.
[…] Such pressures have been rising as Beijing and the Vatican engage in an increasingly combative struggle over the appointment of bishops. After several years of quiet negotiation and a tacit agreement to jointly name Chinese bishops, the Patriotic Association has since 2010 consecrated four bishops over the Vatican’s objections, including Joseph Yue Fusheng, who was ordained Friday in the northern city of Harbin.
Another obstacle for clergy to spread their faith is that many Chinese people know little about any religion, a legacy of government control over mass media. From the same New York Times article:
“Most Chinese people have no idea what Christianity is,” Father Liu said, looking rumpled after a particularly hectic weekend. “They’ll come here to get married, and then go off to a Buddhist temple.”