The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.
Despite the fact that only about 2% of China’s population publicly identify as Christian, the commercial appeal of Christmas has attracted a societal interest in the secular observation of the holiday as China’s middle class has grown. Earlier this week at Sixth Tone, Chinese history professor Yang Chunmei wrote about Confucian backlash to the growing popularity of Christmas in China in recent years:
Most Chinese who celebrate Christmas are not Christians. Starting from the 1990s, the middle class has viewed the festival as a trendy commercial holiday devoid of religious connotations; China is, after all, a largely secular society. Yet in the past decade or so, Christmas has also become a source of social conflict.
Back in December 2006, a group of doctoral students from some of China’s most prestigious universities jointly published an article calling for Chinese people to be wary of Christmas and uphold the sanctity of Chinese culture. Since then, intense online discussions erupt every year over whether Chinese people should celebrate Christmas.
[…] In Chinese, the word for Christmas, shengdanjie, literally means “birthday of a saint or sage.” However, the first character of the word, sheng, historically referred to Confucius — the archetypal sage of ancient China — and only later came to be applied to the Christian saints. Some Confucianists now hope to rename Confucius’ birthday shengdanjie, and propose calling Christmas yedanjie, or “Jesus’ birthday.”
Perhaps the words of Mu Duosheng, an active anti-Christmas lobbyist and an advocate of Confucian revivalism, best capture the position of this group. In an interview in 2013, Mu is reported to have said: “As a Chinese person and a believer of Confucianism, I hold a very negative attitude toward the popularization of Western holidays in China. If a foreign holiday and its related culture grow too rampant in China, it will severely damage our country’s traditional cultural ecosystem and lead to the ‘Westernization’ of China.” [Source]
Meanwhile, at Radio Free Asia, Gao Shan and Qiao Long report that the a local branch of the CCP’s disciplinary watchdog in Hengyang, Hunan has warned Party officials against celebrating Christmas, calling observation of the “foreign holiday” a “spiritual opium” for Party members:
A notice issued by the Commission for Discipline Inspection of Hengyang city in the central province of Hunan warned city officials not to engage in meals and gatherings on Christmas Eve, warning that those caught violating the rules would have to “bear responsibility.”
The wording of the notice suggests it has been sent to officials nationwide.
“With the approach of Christmas, leaders and officials of all ranks must promote traditional Chinese culture and take on the task of building a spiritual home for the Chinese people,” the notice, a copy of which was seen by RFA, says.
“They must earnestly study the doctrine of cultural self-confidence introduced at the 19th Party Congress, and refrain from blindly celebrating foreign festivals or engaging in Western religions,” it said.
“They must not attend any celebrations of a Western origin, and carry out good security work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day,” it said. [Source]
Earlier this month, the Global Times reported that the Communist Youth League of Shenyang Pharmaceutical University issued a notice to student organizations prohibiting the celebration of “Western religious festivals,” urging them to “resist the corrosion of Western religious culture.”
Read about attempts in years past to limit the celebration of Christmas, or about Xi Jinping’s ongoing drive to combat the influence of “Western values,” via CDT. For a recap of the last year in censorship directives and changing trends in their leakage, see CDT’s ongoing 2017 recap of the Directives from the Ministry of Truth series.
Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.