Chinese authorities in Xiamen City are encouraging locals to closely monitor their communities and report what it calls "illegal religious activities" -- gatherings of Christians who did not register to become part of China's state-sanctioned churches.
Xiamen City authorities are counting on local residents to help them locate and punish members of Christian house churches and other individuals engaging in "illegal religious activities." Xiamen's Xunsiding Church pastor Yang Xibo said that the Siming District United Front Department (UFD) or Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau made the announcement through a notice sent to local district offices.
According to International Christian Concern, the bureau's notice enlisted the help of all the residential committees to actively "inspect privately set up gathering places" to bolster the government's campaign against "illegal religious activities."
The bureau noted that residential and office buildings and business hotels are often used by members of Christian house churches to gather. The notice also named several locations to watch out for as well as the most common times such activities occur, which are Saturday nights and Sundays. Locals were directed to immediately report any activities to the UFD.
While the notice targets "illegal religious activities," however, it is in fact a campaign against Christian house churches.
A report from ChinaAid revealed that such venues for "illegal religious activities" are in fact Christian house churches that are "unwilling to join the Three-Self Church and refuse to register with the Folk Religious Affairs Bureau on the basis of abandoning the principle of faith."
For two years now, the Xiamen City government has been demonstrating their control by suppressing these Christian house churches, implementing tough and destructive measures such as demolishing the houses, attacking churches, and arresting Christians.
Christian persecution in China has increasingly become more rampant throughout the years and not only in Xiamen City. Just last week, the Protestant Ren'ai Reformed Church in Guiyang, the Guiyang provincial capital of Guizhou, was raided by Chinese authorities. Over 12 Christian members of the church, who were attending a peaceful Bible study session led by church elder Zhang Chulei, were taken by the Chinese authorities. Chulei was also later captured when he followed up at the police precinct.
Since the coronavirus pandemic has placed most communities in lockdown and have imposed strict isolation guidelines, Chinese authorities have used it as an excuse to crack down on Christian house churches and other gatherings.
A resident with the surname Li told Radio Free Asia last week that the Chinese government has been inconsistent with their definitions of what a house church is. Authorities said that such gatherings should only be attended by families from one household and their relatives.
The Church Times reported in February that Christian persecution in China will most likely worsen in the coming years especially under the communist rule. Andrew Boyd of the persecution watchdog Release International compared today's situation with that of the time of Mao's Cultural Revolution.
He said, "Not only have we seen continued attempts to eradicate the house-church movement, but we've seen China taking increasingly public steps towards shutting down and controlling its officially sanctioned churches."