Communist and post-communist oppression
President Xi Jinping
Surveillance in China is among the most oppressive and sophisticated in the world. Church attendance is rigorously monitored, and many churches are being closed down—whether they are independent or belong to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (the officially state-sanctioned Protestant church in China). It remains illegal for under-18s to attend church. All meetings venues had to close during the COVID-19 crisis, but some churches were forced to remain closed once restrictions began to lift, and were quietly phased out. The old truth that churches will only be perceived as being a threat if they become too large, too political or invite foreign guests, is an unreliable guideline.
Christian leaders are generally the main target of government surveillance, and a very small number have been abducted. “They are simply snatched away,” says an Open Doors source, “only to appear months later in a kind of house arrest, where they get re-educated.’’
If someone is discovered to have converted from Islam or Tibetan Buddhism, their family and community will usually threaten or abuse them. Their husbands may be pressured to divorce them, to persuade them to reconvert. Neighbors may report any Christian activities to the authorities or the village head, who would take action to stop believers.
“More than two dozen monks and devout Buddhists came to Christ!”
Persecution levels in China have gone up slightly, largely because Christians are facing increased pressure from the Chinese authorities. In other areas of life, persecution has remained almost or completely stable, with church life still the place where Christians face the most persecution.
Converts from a Muslim or Buddhist background from minority ethnic groups arguably face the most severe violations of religious freedom, because they are persecuted not only by the authorities but also by their families and communities. Consequently, places where Christian persecution is particularly rife include Xinjiang, Tibet and western China.
Open Doors supports believers in China with discipleship and persecution survival training, and by providing contextualised Christian literature to believers who’ve converted from Islam or Buddhism.