Communist and post-communist oppression
What does persecution look like in China? What is life like for Christians?
The church in China continues to enjoy strong growth; however, life for Christians is anything but straightforward.
The policy of “Sinicizing” the church is implemented across the country, as the Communist Party relies strongly on Chinese cultural identity to stay in power and limits whatever it perceives as a threat to its control on society.
New restrictions on the internet, social media and non-governmental organizations, and 2018 regulations on religion are strictly applied and seriously limit freedom. Churches are being monitored and closed down, whether they are independent or part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the officially sanctioned Protestant church in China.
And it’s not just the introduction of new laws that impinge on Christian activity, it’s also the stricter implementation of already existing laws, such as the ban on the online sale of Bibles.
On a more local level, if a convert from Islam or Buddhism is discovered by their community and family, they are likely to face threats and physical harm—all in an effort to win them back. Spouses may be forced to divorce. Neighbors and the community may even report the practice of Christian activities to the authorities, who could take action to stop them.
“There was no prior warning. They came in, sat down and interrogated me for a whole day without a break. I later found out they questioned many of my colleagues too. They pressured them to provide information about my ‘religious activities.’ This sudden, dramatic action by the hospital management made me look like a criminal!”
What has changed in China?
The intense pressure being increasingly placed on Christians by the government means China has jumped six places from last year’s list. In just three years, the country has risen 26 places, reflecting a rapidly deteriorating situation for Christians in the country.
It is getting increasingly difficult to avoid having to fall in line with official ideology, even for state-affiliated churches. Many churches suffering from the state’s tight control reorganized themselves and split into smaller groups—a tactic that didn’t always save them from intrusion. There are reports that authorities used the COVID-19 pandemic to keep churches closed, even after it was no longer necessary for health reasons.
There has also been an increase in raids and harassment on individual Christians and families. Thousands of churches have been damaged or destroyed, some confiscated, in a campaign that has spread to almost every region of the country. Crosses have also been removed from churches. Meanwhile, laws on regulating religion, which were introduced in February 2018 and enhanced in February 2020, continue to be more strictly implemented and rolled out in an increasing number of provinces.
There are reports that citizens are being financially rewarded for disclosing information on Christians and other minorities to the authorities. This reflects the determination of the Communist Party to exert its control over all areas of life.
It must be remembered that China is vast, and the specifics of life for Christians can be very different in various parts of the country. However, the situation for Christians deteriorated all over the country.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Converts from Muslim or Buddhist backgrounds arguably face the strongest persecution in China. This is driven by families and local communities.
Protestant Christians are more concentrated in the provinces of Henan and Zhejiang, and Catholic Christians are high in number in Hebei. These could all be considered hotspots. However, Christians face restrictions and monitoring all over China, with incidents reported in all almost all provinces.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in China?
Open Doors supports persecuted believers in China through discipleship and persecution survival training, and by providing contextualized Christian literature to believers from Muslim and Buddhist backgrounds.
Population statistic: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).
Number of Christians statistic is an Open Doors estimate
Pray for China
Ask the Lord to give church leaders wisdom, discernment and guidance as they lead congregations in light of increased restrictions and surveillance.
Lift up in prayer all who have left their former religion to follow Jesus. Pray that they will be protected from harm, strengthened in their faith and empowered in their witness.
Ask the Lord to open the eyes of those in authority to the unequalled power and beauty of the gospel.
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