China stiffens persecution of churches with international links

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Chinese authorities have issued a “secret” document directing the local administrations to launch a nationwide crackdown on Christian churches having ties with foreign religious communities.

According to an article originally published by Bitter Winter and republished in Chinascope- a media research company- the document has been issued by United Front Work Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Ministry of Public Security of the Liaoning Provincial Government.

It is titled as ‘Work Plan for Investigating and Handling Foreign Christian Penetration in Accordance with the Law’.

The CCP’s secret document gives the government agencies special powers to “resolutely crack down on foreign religious believers, resolutely destroy the religious activities of foreign religious groups in the local area and resolutely prevent organisations from attending training in neighboring countries and regions.”It also directs them to tighten restrictions on the use of foreign internet websites for conducting online missionary work.

In addition to targetting “Jehovah Witnesses” and a number of Korean Christian churches that have been previously suppressed, the document mentioned Young Disciples of Jesus, Cru, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Bo Ai Church, the Ai Xin Church, the Canaan Christian Church, and several others, according to Chinascope.

As per the document, local governments have to send out their undercover agents for conducting in-depth probes on these religious groups, including scope and scale of their activities, background, funding, personnel composition and status of get-togethers.

It also advocates surveillance of relevant WeChat and QQ social media groups, recording information of all believers, using big data analysis to keep a tab on church activities and setting up a ‘resistance to the overseas Christian penetration work database’.

As part of the crackdown, the secret document demands the shutdown of church meeting places, training centres and seminaries, the taking of a number of measures to combat the believers’ beliefs such as criminal prosecution, education transformation, pressure on their work units and relatives, and cutting off welfare protection, the Chinascope report said.

Before local governments carry out their crackdown actions, they are required to “demonise religious groups and guide public opinion to legalize the CCP’s suppression of them.”The secret document holds local CCP committees and governments responsible for the education transformation in order to “completely eliminate” any chance of restoring religious activities.

Apart from this, the document also advocates that government propaganda departments should produce critical articles and videos to incite the people. Also, Internet censorship departments should control “harmful and sensational public opinion.”Educational departments are required to strengthen the management of teachers and students with religious backgrounds, according to the document.

It also further stated that crackdown action should not take place during major domestic political events or important sensitive anniversaries.

The CCP’s secret document should be maintained in a confidential manner and is strictly prohibited to release such documents on the Internet or inform personnel of their crackdown assignment through WeChat and other social networking platforms.

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