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Home Editorials of Interest Jerome F. Keating's writings China makes CCP its state religion

China makes CCP its state religion

A key difference between Taiwan’s democracy and the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) autocracy is how they handle issues of church and state. In Taiwan, the two are separate and citizens are free to practice any religion. China is totally different.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees religion as a threat to the state. Hong Kong’s 90 year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen (陳日君) was arrested this month under Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Zen is an outspoken retired Catholic bishop, and the CCP, which wants to control the naming of Catholic bishops, is sending a message.

In Xinjiang, Muslim Uighurs are the target. They are regularly imprisoned and “retrained in state indoctrination camps.” They are a threat to the state.

In 1995, the CCP oversaw the abduction of the young, newly named Panchen Lama to wrest control of Tibetan Buddhism.

Even Falun Gong, while technically not a religion, is still seen as a threat. Members continue to be imprisoned and have allegedly even been marked as justifiable targets for “organ harvesting.”

The CCP’s top-down view of state over church is supposedly done in the name of Marxism, but is it? Some unpacking is needed.

Political theorist Karl Marx described an idealistic future for society. Aware of how the capitalistic profit motive of the industrial revolution exploited the working class, he sought a classless society where all would be treated equally.

Marx felt this could result from a natural Hegelian dialectic as workers became aware of their exploitation. He failed to consider humans’ other instincts.

Any reading of Marx should always be balanced with British novelist George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where the revolutionary animals discover that “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Although Marx wrote that religion “is the opium of the people,” he was not an atheist. In full context, he wrote: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of a soulless condition. It is the opium of the people.”

Marx felt that religion’s strong focus on the afterlife distracted from the developing class struggle and hindered the dialectic. In his age, opium was also accepted as a way to relieve pain.

All this exposes the CCP’s claim to exemplify Marxism as a simple justification for its seizing power. Even economically, the CCP has already reverted to a capitalistic form. It does not intend for the means of production to be collectively controlled by all workers.

As for religion, Marx’s work has also been manipulated, as the CCP wishes to serve as the “religion of the people.”

Romanian philosopher Mircea Eliade’s work, The Sacred and the Profane: the Nature of Religion, addresses this. To give meaning to the chaos of life, humans often seek a “sacred place,” an axis mundi from which meaning and purpose can be derived.

The CCP thus relies on a metaphoric transfer to demand a faith’s loyalty and to foster its “true believers.” By simply following CCP precepts, salvation on Earth will be achieved.

Does the CCP have sacred scriptures? It has Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) Little Red Book, and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is promoting his three-volume work, The Governance of China.

Is an axis mundi needed? China always has been the “Middle Kingdom,” and what better place than Beijing. How was freedom achieved? The PRC’s Long March serves as the initial journey to freedom.

Even the sufferings and starvation resulting from Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Red Guard purges are the necessary cleansing of the spirit.

By maintaining this metaphoric context, all other religions can then be cast as “heretics” and “unbelievers,” which in turn justifies their subjugation.

Xi can even borrow from the Catholic Church. When he seeks to change the nature of his position in October, he would simply be seeking to become the party’s “pope,” a role which can then provide him with a valued “infallibility” in matters of state.

This “metaphoric message” has unfortunately been getting across to some.

The shooting this month in Laguna Hills, California, exemplifies it quite well. The target was a “hostile” Presbyterian Church congregation, which had been a strong advocate of Taiwanese democracy and independence. In this “hate crime,” the suspected shooter, Taiwan-born pro-unification advocate David Chou (周文偉), sent the local paper a seven-volume justification where he envisioned himself as “an independence-destroying angel.”

To counter such CCP hypocrisy, Taiwan must follow its path of democracy, under which church and state are separate and the people know how and why democracy was won.

Church and state should be separate, and in a democracy, leaders are elected to be the servants of the people. This is the message that Taiwan can and must give the world as it stands in contrast to China. It knows why it is independent and a democracy. That is its gospel; that is its truth.

Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2022/05/30

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Taiwanese feel that human rights in the country have deteriorated, according to a survey of public opinion by the government-affiliated Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, with media independence receiving its worst score since the annual survey was first conducted in 2009.

The survey, conducted by Shih Hsin University, polled 1,076 people from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23 to gauge public opinion on the development of democracy, freedom and human rights this year.

The survey monitors six aspects: personal freedom and legal protection; personal liberty and equality; freedom of expression and religion; the right to protest; the right to participate in elections and vote; and the right to access public services.