>> In this remote Chinese village, a group of Tibetan Catholics are celebrating one of the most important holidays in their calendar, Christmas. Cizhong, overlooking the Mekong River, is a six-hour drive from the tourist magnet of Shangri-La in Yunnan Province. It's been predominately Catholic since the 19th century when French missionaries built a church and converted Tibetan's Buddhist residents.
Reuters Joyce Zhou is there.>> Behind me is a Catholic church in a remote Tibetan village in Yunnan Province. Local people told me they're celebrating Christmas just as celebrating Chinese New Year. On Christmas Eve, they're gonna gather together to join the Christmas Mass. On the Christmas day, villagers would come to the church and celebrate with wine and cake.
> Those like 70-year-old Ruanna have never doubted their Catholic faith and they believe Christmas celebrations are as important as the lunar New Year festivities. Villages in Cizhong have blended their Catholic, Chinese and Tibetan cultures for centuries. As you can see in Ruanna’s house, from the crosses to
] pictures and even the image of President Xi Jinping, people here, they don't even think the mix of their Tibetan, Catholic, and communist culture are in conflict with their religion.
>> But some villages say Catholic traditions here are being eroded by politics and economic development. Outside the church, a red banner urges people to listen to what the party says, be grateful for the party's kindness, and follow the party. China's constitution guarantees religious freedom but since President Xi Jinping took office six years ago, authorities have tightened government control of religion and demanded loyalty to the communist party.
The village priest said that on top of that the younger generation is more interested in smart phones and video games than exploring their faith. A church that survived immense challenges in the past two centuries, they face greater ones ahead.