The situation of Christians in China under the authoritarian leadership of Xi Jinping

We asked three China experts and Open Doors’ local partner to talk about the current situation of Christians in Xi Jinping’s authoritarian China. The answers below were provided by Yuhua, Moli and Yangyang*.

China’s position in the Open Doors World Watchlist on Persecution report has changed significantly over the past six years. The list tells you which countries in the world are the hardest to be a Christian. While China was 43rd in the ranking in 2018, it has now risen to 16th. We asked the experts the reason for the change.

Yuhua*: “I believe there are many reasons, but one of the most important reasons is the efforts of the Chinese leadership to keep the conditions of the country stable.”

“Stability has always been one of the number one goals of the Chinese Communist Party due to the country’s history. The Christian Church’s voice in Chinese society has been stronger since 2015, which the party has seen as threatening.”

“It is good to note that the Chinese government has tried to control more strongly the Muslim regions of the country, such as the Xinjiang province. The Chinese Communist Party fears all forms of civil disobedience and disloyalty.

Communism as a religion

Moli*: “I don’t know the exact reasons for the change in the situation in China, but I have noticed a change in recent years and especially during the pandemic. The Chinese government is using the pandemic to control religious practice.”

“Communism is a religion in China. People are expected to commit to it and obey the Chinese Communist Party. But God is the priority in our Christian life.”

“Where I live, we can go to church freely for the time being, but gathering in large numbers is no longer allowed. The Communist Party perceives groups with more than a hundred members as a threat to social stability.”

“To avoid problems with the Communist Party, Chinese house churches have split into small groups.”

Control increases

Yuhua*: “Video surveillance is just everywhere in China, whether the place is used for religious practice or not.”

“Ordinary people think that their life is more secure. They believe that video surveillance will prevent crimes and other threatening situations from occurring by reducing street violence, among other things. If some people attack others on the street, the police will soon arrive and arrest them.”

“Video surveillance is legal in the patriotic movement of the Three-Self, that is, the official Chinese church. Its premises must have a camera in every corner. However, there are some churches that have refused it. Usually, in such cases, the authorities have installed the camera outside the church gates.»

“When interviewing a pastor last year, he said that he noticed a decrease in church attendance after installing a video camera.”

Sermons are subject to censorship, Bibles are reduced

Moli*: “The government controls all officially registered churches, so cameras are always installed in their premises. In home churches, the situation is different, because they meet secretly. They are not officially registered, so they are considered illegal.”

“Registered churches have to submit their sermons to the authorities every week for inspection, in which case they will most likely have to be changed. As far as I know, some registered churches cannot preach the gospel freely and according to the Bible.”

“We also do not have official permission to buy Bibles on the Internet. However, there are still places where you can buy Bibles, namely the premises of the Three Me Movement. Most churches still have Bibles available. It is always easy for a new believer to get a personal Bible.

Yangyang: “In March 2022, a new law came into effect in China that applies to all those involved in the religious sphere, restricting their activities on the Internet. Now, all those involved in the religious field must obtain official permission to publish and share religious content on the Internet.

“Religious content includes, among other things, religious videos, textual quotations from the Bible, and spiritual encouragement.”

“When it comes to social media platforms, WeChat is one of the most used platforms in China. We can still communicate on WeChat. There, for example, we can advertise Sunday services or send each other quotes from the Bible.”

“At the same time, I know a pastor whose WeChat activity was monitored by the authorities. He could not send any messages to his spiritual brothers and sisters, certainly not religious messages.

Courage and Code Language

Yangyang*: “Our partners said that the authorities called them and told them to remove religious content from the Internet. Our partners felt the situation threatening at first, but then decided to remain brave. They decided to use a code language to communicate with each other.”

“My opinion is that the new law makes it difficult for Christianity to spread in China. First, it can hinder evangelism on the Internet. Second, it has reduced the supply of spiritual food on the Internet. We have noticed that sermons and Christian material have disappeared from there.»

“Also, the number of spiritual materials aimed at children has significantly decreased in China. Unlike before, we can barely get materials for the children now.»

*Name changed for security reasons

Source: Kristittyjen tilanne Xi Jinpingin autoritaarisesti johtamassa Kiinassa | Open Doors Finland

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