Christmas banned by city in effort to keep its streets clean
A city in northern China has been stripped of Christmas cheer after the authorities banned all festive decorations from its streets.
Officials in Langfang said the move, prohibiting shops and street vendors from selling anything Christmas-themed, is part of efforts to keep the streets clean to win a National Civilised Cities award.
The award, presented every three years, is the highest honour for a Chinese city, and is judged on social development, economy, infrastructure construction and public services.
However, critics have said the rules are part of wider curbs on freedom of speech and religion.
Over Christmas, government workers will be carrying out inspections in Lanfang, and religious activities in public spaces will be monitored and reported, according to state media.
The Christmas crackdown comes as restrictions over freedom of speech and religion have tightened in China under President Xi Jinping.
Since September, three independent churches have been shut down.
While the ruling Communist Party is officially atheist, it allows some faiths to be practised at state-sanctioned religious institutions. For worshippers, that means learning and following state-approved religious thinking.
The approach has led to two versions of each faith - a government-approved one, and an underground one. Beijing has long worked to achieve control of independent religious institutions.