The Chinese Communist Party is tightening its grip on worship and has released a new set of religious restrictions to come into place next month.
All unofficial religious activity will be suppressed with house churches forced to disband and strict travel restrictions in place as China continues its attempt to undermine the Vatican.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party is officially atheist with more than half of China’s 1.4billion population not associated with any religion or belief.
Those following one of China’s five officially recognised religions – Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism – and affiliated with one of the corresponding state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations” are protected in theory from the government’s war on religion.
But newly released documents reveal Christians will not be exempt from the regime’s persecution.
In an attempt at democracy the draft has been sent to the public for consultation before the regulations come into force on October 7.
One of the new rules says it will be an offence to “organise citizens to attend religious trainings, conferences and activities abroad”, “preaching, organising religious activities, and establishing religious institutions or religious sites at schools”, and “providing religious services through the internet”.
House churches have been served legal notices from the Chinese Community Party
All unofficial religious activity will be suppressed
In a bid for the new rules to be accepted, Xi Jinping’s government claims some of the restrictions are in the interest of state security.
There will also be limits on accepting teaching posts in foreign countries and organising religious activities in unapproved religious sites – allowing the government to monitor state-controlled churches and stamp out any underground movements.
The regime is known to make changes to religious affairs every ten years, with the last set of laws unveiled in 2006.
A pastor named Zhou, told advocacy charity China Aid: “Studying the newly revised Regulations on Religious Affairs, it is evident that the Party wants to take charge of religion.
Xi Jinping’s government crackdown on Christians has intensified
The Chinese Communist Party is tightening its grip on worship
“The government wants to control everything, even the smallest aspects.
“One characteristic of this draft is the empowerment of local government bodies all the way down to the communities.
“This revision will further reduce the possibility of loosening religious control in China. It is becoming impossible.”
The latest crackdown has been branded “alarming” by one US-based pastor.
Gao Baosheng, the pastor of a Chinese church in America said: “We can see that the government is clenching tighter and tighter on Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism and Islam.
“The laws are becoming more and more specific and detailed when suppressing Christian family churches, Catholicism, and all other underground religions.
Under Chinese law it is illegal for children to receive a religious education
“The revisions provide a powerful legal base for future suppression.
“The conditions of religious freedom in China are worsened for them. This draft will bring upon a religious winter so harsh that we must seek guidance from God.”
Gao also said he believes the government “seeking public opinion” is nothing more than formality.
He added: “Overall the Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Affairs is Xi Jinping’s attempt to further manage and suppress religions by taking advantage of the laws. By observing these changes in the draft, we can tell that the government is imposing more control on major religions.”
The draft comes just weeks after church camp leaders Zhou Yanhua and Gao Ming were jailed for “brainwashing children”.
Zhou Yanhua and Gao Ming were accused of allegedly “indoctrinating minors with superstitious beliefs” as they drove children to a church camp.
Under Chinese law it is illegal for children to receive a religious education.
Parents in the Guizhou province were threatened with legal action if they did not stop sending their children to church.
Christians have also been banned from singing hymns and praying in a church in Sichuan province.
The house church has been ordered to stop meeting to worship, with the pastor given 15 days to stop Christians from singing and praying.
The restrictions are the latest in a series of increasingly controlling laws, which has seen crosses removed from churches, people banned from praying and reading the Bible and raids on house churches.
Authorities in Zhejiang Province reportedly banned priests from praying for the sick and dying in a Protestant hospital.
In February, Pastor Bao Guohua and his wife, Xing Wenxiang, were sentenced in Zhejiang Province to 14 and 12 years in prison, respectively, for leading a Christian congregation that was opposing a government campaign to remove crosses from the top of churches.
Last year authorities in Zhejiang Province sent out draft regulations governing the colour, size and location of religious signs, symbols, and structures following years of attempting to remove church crosses in the region.
It is thought at least 1,500 crosses were removed from the area with protesters arrested and government-approved churches raising concerns.
And as the Chinese Communist Party continues to assert its dominance, fears grow for a Vatican-appointed bishop arrested for failing to be approved by the state.
Bishop Peter Shao Zhu Min was detained by officials who reportedly took him “on a trip” sparking concern he has been transported to a labour camp.