China’s crackdown on Christianity escalated March 20 when the government of the fifth-largest city began issuing rewards to those who report “illegal religious activities,” including house church meetings.
The Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs in Guangzhou said it would reward prizes of 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 yuan ($450, $750 and $1,500 U.S.) to Chinese citizens who spot and turn in their neighbors to government officials, according to Asia News.
The size of the prize will depend on the scale of the illegal activity.
All churches in China are required to register with the government. Some churches, though, face severe restrictions in how they worship and practice their faith. Because of this, millions of Chinese Christians worship underground.
“The authorities could not have picked a better time, just before Easter to introduce these measures,” a priest told AsiaNews. “At this time, we often meditate on the passion of Jesus and Judas’ treachery for 30 pieces of silver. The Guangzhou government wants to turn people into many mini Judas.”
Guangzhou, with 11 million people, is the fifth-largest city in China and the capital of the province of Guangdong.
Last year Guangzhou authorities shut down the 5,000-member Rongguili Church, but members still meet in homes, Asia News reported.
Referencing the new regulations, one Christian woman told the website, “Now here in China we live in a Big Brother atmosphere.” Under the new law, citizens can report suspicious Christian activities at the government office, by phone or via letter.
The law lists as dangerous people who “establish religious places without authorization; non-religious groups; non-religious institutions; non-religious places, temporary places of worship, religious activities and religious donations.” This includes “organizing unauthorized religious courses, conferences, unauthorized pilgrimages,” AsiaNews said.
Children under 18 are not allowed to take part in Mass or catechism, according to AsiaNews.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
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