Incredible Growth Of Christianity In China Has Government Leaders Worried
By PNW StaffFebruary 02, 2021
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As Christianity rapidly grows in China, Chinese president Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are clamping down, fearing that the size of the Christian church may eventually force them to share power.
The size of the Church in China is set to rise impressively in the coming decades. Up 16 million from just a decade ago, if it continues to grow at its current pace (between 7 and 8 percent each year), it may reach 300 million people by 2030 - creating a collective people big enough to challenge Xi's government.
However, as the number of Christians in the country grows, so does the level of pressure from the government to conform. Since Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power, the government has increasingly sought to tighten its grip on religious groups.
The Communist Party relies strongly on Chinese cultural identity to stay in power, and works hard to make sure nothing in the country is a threat to the absolute authority of the Party. In just three years, the country has risen 26 places on the Open Doors persecution list, reflecting the intensity of the increasing oppression.
Dr Ron Boyd-MacMillan, director of Strategic Research at Open Doors said "We think the evidence as to why the Chinese Church is so targeted, is that the leaders are scared of the size of the Church, and the growth of the Church".
"And, you know, the Chinese leadership, they really do long term planning, I mean, their economic plan goes to 2049, so this bothers them. Because I think if the Church continues to grow like that, then they'll have to share power," Dr Boyd-MacMillan added.
China's "sinicization campaign" was introduced by President Xi Jinping in 2015 and seeks to bring religion under the official atheist party's absolute control and into line with Chinese culture. According to a five-year plan to sinicize Protestant churches released by the Chinese religious authorities, efforts to make the faith more 'Chinese' include a rewrite of the New Testament using Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings to champion socialist ideals.
The Communist Party has also taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by forcing citizens to hand over increasing amounts of personal information for monitoring that has allowed government officials to increase their surveillance operations.
China's use of high-tech surveillance to oppress and monitor their people represents a significant development in religious persecution, as illustrated by the Uighur Muslims.
Even though they live in a remote region, China is employing its "most aggressive technology" to oppress Uighurs. "They've got technology deployed now where they've got surveillance cameras virtually everywhere in the public," US ambassador Sam Brownback notes. "They've collected genetic data on most of the people in the region to where you can be tracked on the internet and they have facial recognition systems that make it impossible to hide".
Is this the future of religious oppression for Christians? Churches currently face the difficult choice of operating underground yet in constant fear of exposure, or aligning themselves with the Communist party, and preaching only pre-approved party-favored topics.
Those churches that do register have even been made to install CCTV cameras as China creates a massive database of all who are attending church. Some churches and even private homes have been pressured to replaced Christian symbols with a picture of Chinese president Xi Jinping or face loss of welfare benefits.
But the oppression does not stop at church gatherings. A new policy has been implemented, imposing a ban of the online sale of Bibles. Regular inspections from the Ministry of Culture are now an expected occurrence for Christian bookstores, restricting the ability to sell Christian literature and unsanctioned Bibles.
Last year, China's government passed a national security law in an effort to strengthen adherence to the CCP-led government and suppress dissent. Following the creation of the new legislation, China has issued mass arrests of several activists and politicians.
These arrests show how the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities intentionally misled the world about the purposes of the national security law, which was instituted to suppress dissent and opposing political viewpoints.
Just last month, well known pastor and author Francis Chan revealed that after he planted three churches in Hong Kong's semiautonomous region, authorities denied him his visa, forcing him to return to the United States.
Back in the US, Chan is appealing the decision as he hopes to return. However, he expressed doubt that the Hong Kong government would allow him to return, given that the region is currently under the powerful grip of the Chinese Communist Party.
Chan said that he was struck over Hong Kong people's "climate of fear,". He emphasized that the early church during Paul's time did not have resources and Bibles but were able to establish a powerful church by the help and power of the Holy Spirit.
Encouraging the new church leaders, he reminded them of how the Apostle Paul who would go to a city, share the gospel for a few weeks and then leave, trusting in God to continue his work.
Chan reminds us that as tribulation tests our identity as Christians, and as the political situation increasingly restricts religious freedoms both in China and the United States we must cling to the gospel closer than ever. As we do, we will make an impact worldwide that sometimes only comes through challenging times.