On 28 September 2023 China File reported on some of the lesser known activities of the United Front Workers’ Department (UFWD) in domestic society.
World Watch Research analyst Thomas Muller explains: “The UFWD is an organ of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and is probably best known for its efforts to defend CCP interests abroad and - when it comes to religious persecution - for having swallowed up the responsibilities of the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) in a major administrative reshuffle in 2018 (WWR, 13 June 2018). However, the UFWD has a more important task within China, which is to control and increasingly replace an independent civil society. One observer quoted in the China File report explains: ‘There’s no clear distinction between domestic and overseas united front work. This is because the key distinction underlying the United Front is not between domestic and overseas groups, but between the CCP and everyone else’. This ‘us versus them’ division is perceived by the Party not just in international politics, but increasingly within China itself and fits the CCP’s broader policy of putting ever-greater emphasis on security at all levels. There is little room in Chinese society for anyone who rejects being co-opted and controlled, including Christians.”
Thomas Muller continues: “Parallel to this, the CCP is busy endeavoring to expand its influence on history and culture internationally by opening a row of new Confucius Institutes in southern countries. As The Wire reported on 1 October 2023, such institutes were recently opened in Bahia (Brazil) and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) and the small nation Djibouti has even opened its second Confucius Institute.”
Thomas Muller adds: “An interesting point to remember has been highlighted by the Pew Research Center in its article entitled: ’10 things to know about China’s policies on religion’, published on 23 October 2023. In Point 8 it reminds the reader that the 281 million members of the CCP and its affiliated youth organizations ‘are officially banned from engaging in a broad range of spiritual activities’. As Pew points out, despite this official line, it is known that some CCP members do identify with a religion and engage in religious practices be it, for instance, by attending temples, church services or by consulting fortunetellers.”