Authorities with the Chinese Communist Party accused a Christian man of violating multiple anti-religion laws after hosting a Christmas celebration and fined him nearly $25,000.
Niu Guobao, a Christian who lives in Huang Zhang Liang village in Lushan county, organized a Christmas celebration over the holidays with more than 40 Christian guests, including 20 children, to pray and sing hymns in honor of Jesus Christ's birth according to Christian Post.
A magazine on religious liberty and human rights, Bitter Winter, wrote that the police raided Guobao's home and told him that he violated a number of crimes including organizing an illegal religious gathering under Article 71 of the Regulation of Religious Affairs, possession of Christian calendars and unauthorized religious books, and involving minors in religious activities which are all forbidden in China.
Guobao has been fined 160,000 yuan (about $24,777.76 as of publishing time) for the violations he committed - an amount that is "astronomical" for a villager as described by Bitter Winter.
The money that Guobao will pay will reportedly remain with the local Religious Affairs Bureau, "a kind of governmental agency that is often in need of cash" says Bitter Winter.
It seems that heavy fines such as this villager's case, is not only imposed to terrorize religious people and prevent them from exercising their beliefs but are also a way to finance the bureaucrats.
The Chinese authorities have long cracked down on non-Chinese celebrations since 2017 after President Xi Jinping told a Communist Party Congress that "the leadership persists in advancing the Sinicisation of our country's religions."
The CPP's central committee and state council issued an official document that same year entitled "Suggestions on the implementation of projects to promote and develop traditional Chinese culture excellence."
An article from Christian Post in 2020 reported that Christians in China faced increased persecution throughout the entire Christmas season and authorities have shut down many worship services and caroling events.
To further discourage religious activities from meeting for the holidays, Chinese government officials required a state-sanctioned Catholic church in Jiangsu province's Wuxi City to obtain approval from at least 8 offices before they can hold a Christmas mass.
But when Father Francis Liu came to get the approval, he saw riot police standing in front of Xishiku Cathedral in Beijing's Xicheng district with a signboard outside of the cathedral's gate saying "Due to the pandemic, all church activities have been halted."
In Fujian province, Christians were also prohibited from singing Christmas songs in a shopping mall even though they were invited to perform in the mall.
Children in Chinese schools were even told that "Christmas should not be celebrated, and gifts should not be exchanged," Bitter Winter wrote.
China has made it its agenda to prevent believers from celebrating Christmas and even asking people to remove Christmas decorations in some cities.
Now that the Christian population is growing at a rapid speed and is set to reach 300 million by 2030, the CCP is threatened and has heightened surveillance even more.
"We think the evidence as to why the Chinese Church is so targeted, is that the leaders are scared of the size of the Church and the growth of the Church," Open Doors' Ron Boyd-MacMillan said.
"And if it grows at the rate that it has done since 1980, and that's about between 7 and 8 percent a year, then you're looking at a group of people that will be 300 million strong, nearly by 2030. And the Chinese leadership, they really do long-term planning. Their economic plan goes to 2049, so this bothers them. Because I think if the Church continues to grow like that, then they'll have to share power."
On Open Door USA's World Watch List, China is ranked No. 17 on the list of countries known for persecuting Christians. They noted that all churches a perceived as a threat if they become too large, too political, or invite foreign guests.