CARTOON: Xi Jinping Finds Out Who's Naughty or Nice This Christmas

CARTOON: Xi Jinping Finds Out Who's Naughty or Nice This Christmas

What you need to know

China has followed up its suppression of religious freedom with a crackdown on Christmas.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cracked down on holiday cheer this year as several municipalities enforced bans on Christmas decorations, stemming from a 2017 party document discouraging the celebration of Western festivals.

The document, titled “Suggestions on the implementation of projects to promote and develop traditional Chinese culture excellence,” outlined a plan to emphasize Chinese festivals such as Lunar New Year and the Lantern Festival while downplaying foreign festivities such as Christmas.

Social media platforms exploded in debate. Many Twitter users noted there were still plenty of Christmas decorations on display in Beijing and Shanghai, while others pointed to videos of China’s hated chengguan, or public security officers, confiscating Christmas trees.

In China, some internet users supported the ban on Western festivities while others derided the attempts to put coal in the stockings of those celebrating Christmas.

The truth, as it so often is in China, is twofold. The “ban” on Christmas may not have encompassed all of China, but it did stem from a national party directive.

It also coalesces with a wider crackdown on the freedom to worship of China’s 72 to 92 million Christians. On Dec. 9, Chinese authorities reportedly arrested over 100 worshipers at Chengdu’s Early Rain Covenant Church and charged its pastor, Wang Yi, with “inciting subversion of state power.”

This is all happening while around one million Uyghur Muslims are being detained in internment camps in Xinjiang, which Chinese authorities are branding “re-education” facilities after first denying their existence. Reports by the New York Times and Associated Press have documented a system of forced labor at these camps, in one instance producing goods for Badger Sportswear, a U.S. apparel supplier.

However, there is at least one place in China which still spreads unrequited Christmas spirit. The factory town of Yiwu, a global hub for the production of Christmas decorations, is expected to report 25 percent growth in overall sales among 300 major merchants this year to about US$5 billion, according to The Telegraph.

Credit: AP / Ng Han Guan
The Artux City Vocational Skills Education Training Service Center in Xinjiang, where detainees are forced to work in the manufacturing and food industries.

It may be tempting to cast Chinese President Xi Jinping as this year’s Grinch, but it is worth noting that the Grinch once asked: “What if Christmas doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”

This holiday season, do spare a thought for those in China without the freedom to worship their respective religions. As for Xi himself, we can all hope that his heart grows three sizes one day.

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Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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