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Chinese College Bans Christmas Celebrations, Forces Students to Watch Propaganda Film

( [email protected] ) Dec 26, 2014 02:13 PM EST

China Bans Christmas
Students in Changsha, Hunan Province, on Wednesday displayed banners reading "Resist Christmas. Chinese should not celebrate foreign festivals.'' Photo: AFP - Getty Images 

A University in China has banned all Christmas celebrations, denouncing it as a "foreign" holiday and forcing students to instead watch propaganda films.

China's Christian population, currently estimated at around 60 million, is rapidly growing and Christmas is increasingly celebrated in the country, which is ruled by the officially atheist Communist Party.

However, state media reported on Thursday that the government education bureau in Wenzhou, a Chinese coastal city also called "China's Jerusalem" due to its large Christian population, banned schools from holding "Christmas-related" events.

In response, China's Modern College of North-west University strung up banners around the campus reading "Strive to be outstanding sons and daughters of China oppose kitsch western holidays" and "Resist the expansion of western culture".

Students were also forced to watch three hours of propaganda films, including one glorifying Confucius, reports the New York Times.  Faculty members reportedly stood at the doors, making sure no one tried to sneak off to join Christmas celebrations.

"There's nothing we can do about it, we can't escape," one student told the Associated Press.

A university spokesman told the state-run Guangming Daily that the school is encouraging students to pay more attention to Chinese traditional culture and holidays, such as the Spring Festival, rather than "idolize foreign festivals".

The newspaper added: "In recent years, more and more Chinese have started to attach importance to Western festivals."

"In their eyes, the West is more developed than China, and they think that their holidays are more elegant than ours, even that Western festivals are very fashionable and China's traditional festivals are old fashioned," it wrote.

China's Communist party frequently issues warnings against "Western cultural infiltration" amid growing consumption of foreign movies, music and other goods, The Guardian reports.

However, Christian activists say the government's ban on Christmas is a thinly-veiled attempt to curb the spread of Christianity in one of the religion's most thriving communities.

Over the past year, the Chinese police have targeted as many as 400 churches across Wenzhou, Christian rights advocates say, demolishing a number of churches and removing crosses on structures they say violate local zoning rules.

According to Radio Free Asia, three people were wounded last week when more than 100 police officers and government workers forcibly removed a cross from a church in Hangzhou.

"They keep a very close watch on us, and there is nothing we can do," said a church official, who anonymously spoke to The Associated Press.

"The situation is not good, as any attempt to re-erect the cross will be stopped."

But despite the government's efforts, China's Christian population continues to expand.. According to a study conducted by Purdue University professor Fenggang Yang, the country may hold over 247 million Christians by 2030.

"It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change," he said.