Since introducing new religious regulations in February to align “religion with Chinese characteristics,” Chinese President Xi Jinping and his regime continue to tighten their grip on religious rights in the name of unification of the country.

According to the new regulations, religious leaders must “conduct religious activities in the Chinese context, practice core socialist values, carry forward the fine traditions of the Chinese nation, and actively explore religious thought which conforms to the reality in China.”

This church in Luoyang in Henan province was required to display the Chinese flag. (Photo courtesy of China Aid)

Across the country, churches are reportedly facing increasing pressure to align with the Communist Party; including, in some areas, replacing crosses with the national flag and displaying pictures of Xi Jinping. 

Perhaps one of the most disturbing regulations is the new announcement in some areas that children are not allowed to attend church services, suggesting beginning efforts to stunt the growth of Christianity for emerging generations.China Aid reports multiple examples of recent moves that continue to violate and diminish believers’ religious rights:

  • China has increased its persecution of unofficial “house” churches, forcing many of them to close.
  • In the west-central province of Jiangx in Xinyu County, all churches have reportedly been ordered to display the national flag, as well as Xi Jinping’s picture and posters on socialist values.Xinyu County government officials also pulled down the cross of Jieken Evangelical Church, as well as many others.
  • Additionally, children in the area have been forbidden from attending church.
  • In Shangrao, another area of Jiangxi, more than 40 churches have hung a slogan that reads, “Non-locals are prohibited from preaching; no underage people allowed in church.”
  • The government has threatened to cancel the welfare of low-income residents should they refuse to comply.
  • In Leqing, Zhejiang province in East China, churches have been forced to pay homage to the Communist Party by singing patriotic songs and hanging the national flag.
  • Government officials in other regions of China are also forcing churches to tear down their crosses and replace them with the national flag. In the city of Luoyang, part of the Henan northern province, another cross was replaced by the Chinese flag.
  • On Aug. 21, Tianen Church’s cross was torn down in the city of Hebi, also in Henan,the “epicenter of the drive to control the Christian community in China,” according to the Associated Press, whose reporters visited the province earlier this year. It’s the country’s most populous province and a focus of President Xi Jinping’s fight against poverty.“A dozen Chinese Protestants interviewed … described gatherings that were raided, interrogations and surveillance, and one pastor said hundreds of his congregants were questioned individually about their faith,” AP reported.“I’ve always prayed for our country’s leaders, for our country to get stronger,” Guo, a 62-year-old whose church was ordered to stop its activities until it was registered with the government, told AP. “They were never this severe before, not since I started going to church in the 80s. Why are they telling us to stop now?” 

Christians ‘Enigma’ To Xi Jinping And His Government
All places of worship in China will have to fly the national flag on national and religious holidays if a proposal by state-sanctioned religious institutions is implemented. Radio Free Asia (RFA) quoted China’s Global Times newspaper:“All religious venues should raise China’s national flag to strengthen awareness of respect to the flag and preserve the flag’s dignity …   Places of worship [that] do not follow the practice could face scrutiny.”

Aaron Ma, an Asia-based researcher for Open Doors International, told World Watch Monitor that Christians are an “enigma” to the government,

“The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) believes the Church is a destabilizing force, but not because it is bad; in fact, local communities and authorities tend to believe Christians are good people, “Ma explained. “Some suggest that because Christians’ allegiance is first and foremost to God and not the Communist Party, there is a conflict of interests that the party believes can potentially hinder the process of unification. Others are more concerned by what they perceive as potential ‘chaos’ arising from the huge number of Christians.”

In a statement following the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom held last month in Washington D.C., delegates urged the Chinese government to “protect the religious freedom of all individuals and to respect the human rights of all members of religious groups” as this “will only further peace, security, and stability in China and among its neighbors.” 

The Growth Continues
Despite intensifying persecution in China by an officially atheist government, the church in the country of 1.4 billion people continues to grow. Reportedly, tens of millions of Chinese people now identify as Christians, and the number has grown rapidly.

Over the past four decades, China has witnessed a religious revival, in particular with a significant increase in Christian believers. The number of Chinese Protestants has grown by an average of 10 percent annually since 1979. Some estimates indicate that China is on track to have the world’s largest population of Christians by 2030.

Today, pray with your family in China as they continue to see their religious rights diminish. Pray especially with church leaders and their congregations who no longer have a church building to gather in, or are being forced to replace the symbol of their Savior with flags. And pray with house churches and their leaders who live under continuous scrutiny and threat of fines and even imprisonment. 

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Written by: Lindy Lowry
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