Currently on exhibit in China’s capital is a curious display of large placards describing the “evil deeds” of “heterodox religious cults.”
The exhibit was organized and sponsored by the Beijing Association for Resistance Against Heterodox Religions, and features descriptions of “heterodox cults” throughout the world, including quotes by cult leaders. What is most disturbing about this display is that the images of these cults and their leaders are largely depicted as what at first appears to be Catholic, even though Catholicism is not mentioned on any of the placards.
On “Placard 20,” the title, which states, “Stirring the People Into Rebellion,” is accompanied by cartoon images of Wang Yongmin, the cult leader, who is wearing a red skullcap, pectoral cross, and a red bishop’s cape, though Yongmin is not Catholic.
Placard 15 depicts a cult identified in the title as “The only ‘Holy Spirit New Testament [Protestant] Church’,” which was established in Hong Kong. This group remains notorious in China for promoting Hong Kong and Taiwan independence from the Mainland. Again, the leader is depicted wearing the clothes of a Catholic bishop, despite the fact that the group identifies itself as “Protestant.”
Placard 19 describes a Chinese cult called the “Changshou Teaching,” led by a man named Li Changshou. Again, this cult identifies itself as Jidujiao (Protestant), but Li is depicted wearing a Roman collar, red skullcap, and a bishop’s pectoral cross.
And in one odd cartoon, Li Changshou is featured next to a crucifix, though the corpus is a small version of Li himself, round glasses, red skullcap, and all. What makes these “heterodox” religions problematic according to the message of the placards is that they are critical of the current political authorities; it is concerning that this label is so visually associated with Catholicism, even if this attachment is implicit.