Since last year, the Communist Party in China has been intensifying its drive to quell the growing popularity of Christianity throughout the country. So much so that the Guangzhou Communist Party is offering a substantial reward to those who furnish information about secret Christians, underground churches, and others participating in religious activities regarded “illegal” by the Chinese government.
Carried out through a regulatory program called “Incentives to Motivate the Masses to Report on Illegal Religious Activities,” the Department of Ethics and Religious Affairs of Guangzhou, is offering to pay as much as 10,000 Chinese yuan ( $1,500), to anyone who provides information that will lead to the actual arrest of religious leaders and Christians. Those who will come forward with tips about religious meeting places and churches used and built without approval of authorities, stand to receive smaller bounties.
The regulatory body will then disseminate the tips and provide assistance to government agencies tasked to track down illegal religious groups and its members.
Persecution watchdog China Aid, through its founder Bob Fu, aired concerns that the regulations will significantly heighten the persecution of Christians in China, being officially, an atheist country.
The Director of the Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion and Culture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Ying Fuk Tsang, explained that the objective of the crackdown is not to put an end to religions. Tsang stated further that
“President Xi Jinping is trying to establish a new order on religion by censoring its continuing development”…The government’s aim is to regulate the entire ‘religious market”
President Xi is said to be rousing the country to guard against “infiltration” that can be perpetuated through extremist ideology and religion.
What the Chinese Government Considers as Illegal Religious Activities
Guangzhou authorities describe activities as illegal if they involve establishing and holding religious activities in places of religious worship or in non-religious locations, without government approval.
It is also illegal to organize trips abroad that will enable Chinese citizens to attend religious meetings, seminars or worship, as well as receive religious education, all without first securing government approval
When accepting religious donations, government approval must likewise be sought in order not to be considered as an illegal religious activity.
During the month of December, Christian activities and celebrations are prohibited.