A U.S.-based persecution watchdog says it has documented more than 100 incidents of Christian persecution in China between July 2020 and June 2021 as the country's communist regime seeks to forcefully convert independent religious groups into mechanisms of the Chinese Communist Party.
A significant trend throughout the past year was an increase in church raids, says a report published by International Christian Concern. It notes that "not only were churches shut down or demolished, but pastors and church attendees were often arrested.”
One example of this crackdown happened earlier this month when more than 30 officials from the CCP, including SWAT officers, police officers, religious affairs bureau officials and local school district administrators raided Maizi Christian Music High School in Harbin city in China’s Heilongjiang province, the U.S.-based rights group China Aid reported at the time.
In August, officers from Chenghua District Mengzhuiwang office in Sichuan province forcibly entered the home of a church member, He Shan, where the small group of Early Rain Covenant Church members were meeting for worship, CBN News said at the time.
ICC has also tracked 23 incidents of authorities demolishing religious structures and symbols during its reporting period. “The CCP has torn down, destroyed, and removed numerous churches in China, especially those that refused to submit to its control,” the report says.
The persecution watchdog adds in the report that it recorded 14 cases of “Sinicization,” which is a state campaign to forcefully assimilate religious groups into CCP-defined Chinese culture.
As an example, ICC highlights the plight of a church bookstore that was forced to display Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book instead of the Bible. The Administration for Religious Affairs also ordered Christians to study President Xi’s book and memorize his speeches.
Chinese authorities are also removing Bible apps and Christian WeChat public accounts as new highly restrictive administrative measures on religious staff went into effect earlier this year.
The ICC report says that almost every province in China has seen an increase in Christian persecution, and this rise has been especially apparent in Sichuan, Hebei and Fujian provinces.
“China tightening down on people of faith comes as no surprise to observers,” says Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, in a statement about the report.
“What is concerning is the depth and width of persecution and that it continues to expand. From Xinjiang to Sichuan, from state-sanctioned groups to underground churches, from verbal threats to imprisonment, believers in China are constantly watched and persecuted,” Goh adds.
Under the direction of President Xi Jinping, officials from the CCP have been enforcing strict controls on religion, according to another report released in March by China Aid.
Open Doors USA, which monitors persecution in over 60 countries, estimates that there are about 97 million Christians in China, a large percentage of whom worship in what China considers to be “illegal” and unregistered underground house churches.
Christians are not the only religious minority to face persecution at the hands of the CCP.
Estimates suggest that as many as 1 million to 3 million Uyghur and other ethnic Muslims have been subject to internment camps in the western Xinjiang province, where they are taught to be secular citizens who fall in line with the CCP. In January, the U.S. State Department recognized China's treatment of Uyghurs as a “genocide.”
China has also reportedly violated the rights of Falun Gong practitioners and Tibetan Buddhists.