Chinese city, university ban Christmas celebrations
BEIJING: A Chinese city, which earlier saw demolition of portions of churches, has banned Christmas celebrations. Joining the move is a university in Xian, which has asked students not to celebrate Christmas and other foreign “kitsch” festivals.
Both of them are focusing on the “foreign origins” of Christmas even as the country’s 60 million Christians go about their celebrations under close vigil from the authorities.
The local government in Wenzhou, regarded by some Christians as Jerusulam of China because of its old churches, has ordered schools not to hold any Christmas related activities. Wenzhou officials have expressed “hope schools can pay more attention to Chinese traditional festivals instead of Western traditions,” according to a local newspaper.
“Be good sons and daughters of your country, stand against kitsch Western holidays,” a banner presumably put up by authorities of Northwest University in the ancient city of Xi’an, said. Another banner, which has been publicized in online forums, said, “Resist the expansion of Western culture”.
The university also asked students to watch a documentary about Chinese sage Confucius instead of celebrating Christmas.
The Pope recently refused to meet the Dalai Lama, who is regarded as a separatist by Chinese government, in the hope of improving relations with Beijing. China and the Vatican are divided on who will control the church. Beijing opposes the appointment of priests in so-called unofficial churches by the Vatican.
A section of Chinese officials are worried about growing interest in Christmas, which is being celebrated in Chinese cities as an occasion for fun and shopping. The official broadcaster, CCTV, showed celebrations in different cities across the country with shopping malls showing off life-sized idols of Santa Claus.
A Communist Party organ, Guangming Daily, quoted a university spokesman asking students to pay more attention to Chinese traditional culture, and not to “idolise foreign festivals”. The paper said, “Each year Christmas brings debate, with one side saying that the festival can bring a lot of new fun things, and another side saying that we should not fawn over foreign things and overlook Chinese traditional festivals.”
A small group of students held anti-Christmas demonstrations with placards saying “Resist Christmas” in central Hunan province, according to microblog of the ruling party mouthpiece, the People’s daily.
Communist leaders routinely ask people to resist “Western cultural infiltration”. On the other hand, the official censors have increased the quota of Hollywood films that can be shown every year, and a wide range of western cultural products including music is extensively popular.
“We had guidance on foreign holidays such as Christmas in the past, but this year marks the first time we issued a clearer notice,” an education official in Wenzhou told a local newspaper.
Local officials also asked churches in Wenzhou and elsewhere in Zhejiang province to turn off any spotlights shining on their crosses at night. In some cases, they were asked to remove the crosses or face forced demolitions. Wenzhou officials have earlier said some churches have built in violation of construction rules.