Authorities with the Chinese Communist Party fined a Christian man nearly $25,000 after he hosted a Christmas celebration, accusing the believer of violating multiple anti-religion laws.
Over the Christmas holiday, Niu Guobao, who lives in Huang Zhang Liang village in the province of Henan, hosted more than 40 Christians, including 20 children, to pray and sing hymns in honor of Christ’s birth.
Bitter Winter, a religious liberty watchdog, reported that Chinese officials raided Niu’s home and subsequently fined him 160,000 yuan ($24,693 USD) for hosting the party — an amount the persecution watchdog says is “astronomical” for a villager.
Authorities accused Niu of violating three laws: hosting an unauthorized religious gathering under Article 71 of the Regulation of Religious Affairs; hosting minors at a religious gathering; and owning Christian calendars and unauthorized religious books.
The money will reportedly remain with the local Religious Affairs Bureau, “a kind of governmental agency that is often in need of cash,” according to Bitter Winter, which notes that heavy fines are used to both terrorize religious dissidents and finance the bureaucrats.
Chinese authorities have cracked down on non-Chinese celebrations since 2017 after President Xi Jinping told a Communist Party Congress that “the leadership should persist in advancing the Sinicisation of our country’s religions.”
That same year, the CPP’s central committee and state council issued an official document, titled "Suggestions on the implementation of projects to promote and develop traditional Chinese culture excellence."
In 2020, riot police in Beijing prevented Christians from entering Catholic and Protestant churches, placing signs on the doors reading: “Due to the pandemic, all religious activities have been halted.”
In Fujian province, Christians were prevented from singing Christmas songs in a shopping mall, even though the believers had been invited to perform.
Chinese schools even told children that “Christmas should not be celebrated, and gifts should not be exchanged,” Bitter Winter said.
In 2018, just before Christmas, authorities in some cities such as Langfang, in Hebei province, ordered shops to remove Christmas decorations on the streets and in window displays.
Authorities across China also warned members of Christian churches not to try holding public gatherings to celebrate Christmas, and the disciplinary arm of the CCP banned its members and government officials from celebrating Christmas, comparing the practice to "spiritual opium" for members of the atheist party.
China is ranked 17th on Open Door USA’s World Watch List of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian — up six spots from last year. According to Open Doors, the CCP has cracked down on Christians by using surveillance technology, integrating its social credit and video security system within the last year to track its people and punish them for attending church.
Despite increasing persecution, the Christian population in China is projected to reach 300 million by 2030.
"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."