The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has intensified its persecution of foreigners suspected of propagating Christianity in China. Even locals who are identified to have ties with foreign Christian establishments are subject to harassment.
Cracking down on ‘religious infiltration’
“Anti-China forces in the West are trying to continue to influence China’s social stability and even subvert our country’s political power through Christianity, and it is doomed to fail… For individual black sheep who, under the banner of Christianity, participate in subverting national security, we firmly support the country to bring them to justice,” Xu Xiaohong, head of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, said in a statement (CNBC).
Governments in various provinces are increasing their investigations into universities, colleges, businesses, and hotels suspected of having a relationship with foreign entities. In Jilin Province, a municipality has issued “The Plan for Jointly Investigating Religious Infiltration Activities.” According to the document, religious meeting venues that have foreign ties, the daily activities of foreign missionaries, activities of theological colleges, etc. have to be investigated. Files must be maintained when foreign infiltration is suspected and the activities of the person linked to the infiltration must be monitored and recorded.
In the province of Fujian, authorities have banned the broadcast of foreign religious information through television, radio, and other means, stating that it is an attack on the country’s religious policies and human rights. Foreigners who come to China on religious missions are to be investigated and financial assistance from such outside religious groups is to be banned since it would interfere with “normal” religious activities.
“The CCP has a very tough attitude on the issue of Christianity. They have a long name list of South Korean religious persons in China and are also secretly investigating South Korean co-workers in the church. Some co-workers from South Korean have reported that they came to China on a tourist visa, but were stopped at the airport in Beijing,” a South Korean pastor said to Bitter Winter.
Recently, officials forcefully shut down a 1,000-member church in Beijing and demanded followers sign a statement that they would never go to church again. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has accused China of being the worst violator of religious freedom in the world. Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, alleged that the Chinese government was at war with faith and that it was a war “they will not win.”
China has also started offering financial rewards to people who report on “illegal” religious activities. The reward system has been implemented in the city of Guangzhou and is expected to be spread nationwide soon.
“Under the new reward scheme in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, informants can earn between 5,000 and 10,000 yuan [US$750-$1,500] for tips leading to the arrest of a non-Chinese religious leader, according to a statement on the department’s website… Other payments include 3,000 to 5,000 yuan [US$450-$750] for information leading to the closure of a foreign religious group, and between 100 and 3,000 yuan [US$15-$450] for tips about locally organized gatherings and their leaders,” according to South China Morning Post.
According to authorities, the reward system is aimed at getting the citizens involved in identifying religious extremists that threaten social stability. But in reality, it is an attack targeted at the expansion of Christianity. Not only will house churches have to deal with a government crackdown, but they will also be under the watchful eyes of their neighbors from now on.