Beijing: Thousands of Christians in an impoverished county in rural southeast China have swapped their posters of Jesus for portraits of President Xi Jinping as part of a local government poverty-relief programme that seeks to “transform believers in religion into believers in the party”.
Local officials have told thousands of Christians in China’s Yugan county that Jesus Christ wouldn’t drag them out of poverty or cure their illnesses, but the Chinese Communist Party will. Hence, they should take down those pictures of Christ and put up a nice photograph of President Xi Jinping.
Located on the edge of Poyang, China’s largest freshwater lake, the impoverished county in the Jiangxi province is known equally for its poverty and its large Christian community.
More than 11 per cent of its one million residents live below the country’s official poverty line, while nearly 10 per cent is Christian, South China Morning Post reported, citing official data.
According to Washington Post, a social media account in Yugan County said villagers had “willingly” removed 624 posters showing Christian religious sayings and images, and replaced them with 453 images of President Xi.
The move, while still on a small scale, depicts the personality cult surrounding Communist China’s first leader, Mao Zedong, whose picture was in every home.
Under President Xi, the ruling Communist Party had made ending poverty by 2020 a top priority, and the campaign is not only crucial to the political legacy of the country’s most powerful leader since Mao, but also serves to consolidate the party’s control over the grass roots of society.