And tough new rules mean the clampdown is getting even tighter. As Andrew Boyd from Release International reports…
China is cracking down on every sign of religion by tearing down crosses from churches, removing mosque domes and destroying symbols of Buddhism.
China is tightening its grip on the Church in tough new measures designed to control religious groups and limit religious freedom.
From September new rules limit all religious activities to official venues only and prevent the display of religious symbols outdoors.
Partners of UK-based Release International, which supports persecuted Christians, say the government is working to bring all aspects of religion under the control of the Communist Party, which is officially atheist.
They say the new measures ‘amount to a complete ban on religious activities and an attempt to ‘suffocate’ the unofficial church, where Christians meet in secret to find freedom of worship.
In recent years, more than 1500 crosses have been torn down from authorised churches in Zhejiang province alone. And Release International's partners report a fresh wave of cross demolitions is set to begin.
Other churches have been told to remove signs on their walls referring to Jesus, Christ, Emmanuel, and Jehovah.
Anyone who runs a religious venue must now demonstrate their love for the motherland and their support for the Communist Party of China.
Church sermons must reflect China's politics rather than religious doctrines. And clergy members who refuse face disqualification. These new rules will also make it harder for underground Christians as those who host them could face severe penalties.
It’s just the latest tightening of the screws on the visible and invisible church in China.The authorities have been arresting church leaders who take up offerings on charges of fraud, and Christians have been banned from posting religious content on the internet, including sermons.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for Christians to gather in person or online. Release International partner Bob Fu describes the Party as playing God and twisting how the Gospel is taught.
And he challenges the international community to take note of the worsening oppression in China. Yet, despite the increasing persecution, by every account, Christianity continues to grow. There have long been more Christians in China than members of the Communist Party.
This is Andrew Boyd for the Global News Alliance.