Local governments across China have cracked down on hotels holding Christmas events, as the holiday promotes Christianity, according to a recent report.
China recently placed restrictions on Christian holidays, deeming Christmas festivities, in particular, a part of Western values. Several cities, schools, and government institutions ordered citizens not to celebrate the holiday and promote Chinese culture instead. In some cities, officials ordered all Christmas decorations to be cleared and forbade shops from selling Christmas-themed goods.
As a result, some hotels opted to host Christmas events at their venues – and were penalized for doing so, Bitter Winter reports.
A Three-Self church in Ningling county under the jurisdiction of Shangqiu city in central Henan province reportedly held their Christmas event early, on December 16, in order to evade the harassment of authorities. The church leader spent nearly $600 to rent a hotel lobby for two hours.
That evening, several hundred Christians gathered at the hotel and were watching some holiday performances, which attracted the attention of nearby police.
"Why did you provide a venue to a religious group? Don't you know the state doesn't allow them to celebrate Christmas," one police officer asked the hotel owner.
Afterward, the police issued the hotel owner a 20,000 RMB (about $ 3,000) fine along with the warning that he's "absolutely forbidden from letting this happen again."
The hotel owner had to spend thousands of yuan treating police and giving them gifts before the matter was settled: "If we had known things were going to turn out this way, we wouldn't have rented the space out no matter what," one server at the hotel said. "Not only did we not make a profit, but we also lost money. In the future, we'll host any type of event only if it doesn't have anything to do with Christianity."
Ahead of Christmas, authorities reportedly issued a notice forbidding street-side shops from putting up stages for performances, sales, and other promotional activities for Christmas; the hotel's punishment was apparently related to this provision.
Another hotel in northeast Liaoning province's Shenyang city was heavily penalized by authorities for hosting a celebration on Christmas Eve.
On December 24, over 200 people were preparing for a celebration in the hotel when suddenly, more than ten vehicles from the municipal Cultural Affairs Bureau, Public Security Bureau, the city's Fire Division, and local police station surrounded the hotel.
Four fully-equipped police officers reportedly rushed into the hotel and a government official warned the hotel manager, "Christmas celebrations aren't allowed in Communist Party territory."
The hotel was subsequently fined 130,000 RMB (about $19,300) for holding a celebration event without applying for approval.
China has previously cracked down on Christmas merriment: Last December, Hengyang, a city in Hunan province, issued a stern notice asking Communist Party officials and their relatives to "resist the rampant Western festival."
Yaqiu Wang, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told The New York Times that though many nonreligious Chinese celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, the ban on Christmas displays reflects "increased hostility" toward signifiers of Western culture and Western values.
"The ban on Christmas decorations in Langfang is part and parcel of the Chinese government's tightening control over religion," she said.