China has increased its pressure on Christians in China, especially in the central Henan province, where public security bureaus and religious affairs commissions have been targeting house churches.
According to reports from US organisation China Aid, a new initiative in Nanyang, Henan, explicitly forbids any kind of religious gatherings in people’s homes.
Anyone caught attending or hosting meetings outside of a registered religious venue will be subject to a fine of 30,000 yuan (£3,378). All Christians in the area are ordered to join an officially registered church.
Under China’s current religious policy, only Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, state-recognised Protestant Christianity and Catholicism are legal for citizens to participate in, and they may only do so in churches, mosques or temples operated by the government.
The official Chinese Protestant church is known as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, but, according to China Aid, most of its churches are instructed to teach loyalty to the Communist Party over and above Scripture.
Therefore, many Christians choose to meet outside of the official religious system, in groups known as house churches or underground churches, despite the fear of fines, imprisonment and other state-authorised censures.
According to Release International, China is arresting pastors, pulling down crosses and demolishing churches. Christian human rights lawyers claim they are being intimidated and tortured. Earlier this year, lawyer Li Baiguang, who had been an outspoken campaigner for religious freedom, died in suspicious circumstances.
During March, at an event in London, Bob Fu, the former house church leader and prisoner of faith, stated the persecution of Christians in China is worsening and is now as severe as at any time since the Cultural Revolution.
Yet, despite the increasingly open persecution of Christians in China, the growth of Christianity there seems unstoppable. Mr Fu said, ‘Under communism, Christianity has grown from one million Christians in China to an estimated 100 million today’.
Some sociologists project that number of Chinese Christians will exceed 220 million by 2030, making China the largest Christianised nation in the world.