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Christians face new religious freedom threat in China

China (MNN) — Government oppression is a familiar reality for Chinese Christians, but new enforcement methods raise concern. It’s a troubling development on the heels of the Tiananmen Square Massacre’s 30-year anniversary.

Between June 3 and 4, 1989, unknown thousands of Chinese citizens died at the hands of armed military forces. As recounted here, soldiers had been ordered to clear Beijing’s Tiananmen Square of protestors “by whatever means necessary.” Documents released by China’s government place the death toll between 200 and 300, but BBC News reports 10,000 people perished.

Following the incident in Tiananmen Square, China’s government warmed to Christianity because they saw how it helped society. “The Communist structure had…no moral underpinning… so, they (government officials) allowed Christianity to flourish for a season,” says David Curry of Open Doors USA.

“Now, you see a great tightening of restrictions in a way that we haven’t seen before, largely because of their capacity for surveillance.”

The changing face of persecution in China

As described here by Open Doors USA on its World Watch List, China is the 27th most difficult place in the world to be a Christian:

The management of religious affairs in China lies with the Communist Party now, not just with the government. And Christians are intensely and increasingly feeling this shift and fear of Christian persecution. Since the Communist Party took over, the implementation of the regulations on religion, the treatment of religious groups, especially Christians, became much harsher across the country.

(Image screenshot courtesy of ChinaAid)

Typically, persecution looks like this: government officials use “the available laws to restrict Christians [and] to ‘pick on’ Christian churches,” Curry explains.

Chinese authorities previously used zoning regulations to tear down church buildings, he describes as an example. Officials in some locations refused to let believers put up crosses or build churches because they lacked the proper permits.

“Well, that’s not untrue,” says Curry regarding the permits. “But, what it fails to mention is that nobody in that city might have a permit for any building, because that’s not the way that was done… when the city was constructed.”

Recent developments are more tech-savvy.

“China has this ability to track Christians and their behavior…. They’re now keeping a social score,” he states. More about China’s “social score” and “social credit” here.

“At some point in time, the fear is that they’re going to put those two lists together and say, ‘We don’t think Christians are good citizens.’ They could…withhold food, withhold jobs, withhold all kinds of things from them.”

(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

Ask the Lord to protect His followers in China. “We need to pray for boldness for the Christian Church in China — for the leaders, for the pastors, for the individuals,” Curry adds.

“I’d like to see every church every Sunday praying for the persecuted Church. I think that’s our responsibility.”

Header image: A seal on a closed church in the Guangdong province in China – one of the multiple churches closed over the last year throughout China. (Photo courtesy of China Aid; photo and caption obtained via the Open Doors USA blog).

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