The Chinese government is offering cash rewards to people who inform on underground churches.
One city, Guangzhou, is offering more than £1,000 to those who can identify ‘unofficial’ places of worship.
The incentive is part of a nationwide effort to bring all religious groups under the control of the Communist Party.
Officials within the Chinese government believe the West is trying to use Christianity to undermine the Communist regime.
Religious affairs officers in Guangzhou have decided to offer cash rewards for useful information starting from just 100 yuan (£11).
But helping to identify and arrest preachers and members of unauthorised religious groups will be rewarded as much as 10,000 yuan – about two months’ average salary.
The US-based think tank Center for Security Policy criticised the Chinese President, Xi Jinping.
It said his regime, ‘Not content with blowing up churches, imprisoning clerics and worshippers and relentlessly employing totalitarian surveillance techniques, has taken to bribing informants to reveal the location of underground congregations.’
In China, churches already must register with the government to operate. Independent groups, sometimes known as underground or ‘house’ churches, regularly face restrictions and their pastors are arrested. Some of their buildings have been demolished.
Chinese authorities are particularly seeking to uproot these underground churches.
China has up to 40 million ‘official’ Christians, but the membership of the underground Church is believed to far exceed this.
According to the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, ‘While Guangzhou is the first Chinese metropolis to offer cash rewards to aid a nationwide crackdown on intrusive religious activities, similar schemes have been running elsewhere in the country for some time.
‘In the central province of Henan, which is regarded as a religious hotbed, numerous city and county governments have since April last year been offering financial incentives for whistle-blowers, though they are smaller than those on offer in Guangzhou.’