New measures in China herald a further tightening of Government control on Christian activity.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has implemented new regulations, first announced in November, imposing tighter controls on the administration of officially recognised churches.
According to International Christian Concern (ICC), the crackdown has also seen Bible apps and some Christian social media accounts taken down by the authorities.
Under new Administrative Measures for Religious Clergy, the details of ‘authorised’ religious leaders must be logged on a national database.
In order to be registered – and remain on the register – leaders are required to belong to a state-recognised religion, “support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party” and not be “dominated by foreign forces”.
One pastor told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that the Government’s aim – of making religion ‘more Chinese’ – was in fact the “‘partyisation’ of religion”, and that in the end there would only be the CCP and “no religious beliefs”.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said that where churches had resisted the pressure to conform to “Party-approved” practices, their leaders had “faced harassment, threats and even prison sentences”.
ICC has reported that the Chinese Government is also targeting the internet.
A number of Christian social media accounts have been blocked and now display a message stating they have been censored for violating “Internet User Public Account Information Services Management Provisions”.
It is becoming almost impossible to buy Bibles online, although physical bookshops may still sell them, and Bible apps have been removed from China’s App Store.
China has climbed six places to 17 in Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List, the organisation’s annual ranking of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution – the first time China has been named among the worst twenty offenders in a decade.