On 1 September, the Chinese government will be introducing new ‘Administrative Measures for Religious Institutions’, which Christian commentators believe will further restrict religious freedom in the country.
The regulations, published by China's State Administration for Religious Affairs, will affect seminaries and other religious institutions that are involved with training and teaching. They cover a wide range of topics, from requirements needed to establish a religious institution to the curriculum and staff recruitment.
“Under the rules, no less than 30 per cent of class time must be devoted to 'General Education' topics such as socialist ideologies, thoughts, core values and Chinese traditional culture, amid others," explains Caleb, a local Open Doors partner whose name has been changed for security reasons. “This is a significant percentage.”
"The Chinese government want to limit the overall growth of the Christian population and weaken any connection with the overseas churches Caleb, Open Doors partner
The regulations also mandate thorough background checks for foreign lecturers. “The regulations mention candidates should be excluded if they, in the past, have joined any anti-China organisation, participated in anti-China activities, expressed publicly anti-China rhetoric and so on,” adds Caleb. “Such an emphasis is something new.”
Under Chinese President Xi Jinping's leadership, the Communist Party has tightened its control over the country, including its churches. As the government perceives its main threat to come from the West, foreign missionaries and churches with overseas connections are regarded with particular suspicion.
“The crackdown on both official and underground churches in recent years is aimed at limiting the overall growth of the Christian population as well as weakening any connection with the overseas churches," says Caleb. “These new regulations are just part of the plot to achieve this goal."
In an unrelated incident, authorities arrested four Christian teachers in China's Anhui province on charges of running an ‘illegal operation’.
Police raided the Christian school in Wuhu on 27 May and arrested 10 teachers. Six of them were released on bail, but Wang Minghai, Wan Hongxia, Han Yanlei, and Xie Zhifeng remain in detention. Authorities say the school is illegal. Under a 2017 directive, private schools and home-schooling may not replace compulsory education in public schools.
“Schools in China need to be registered with the government to be legal," a local Christian tells Open Doors. “While private and faith-based schools as well as home-schooling were illegal but tolerated in the past, this is no longer the case as authorities want to control education.”
Please pray for Christians in China as authorities tighten their control, and for the next generation of Chinese children. It’s already illegal for someone under 18 to attend a Christian service, and the government has also increased restrictions on the internet and social media. This scrutiny, often using advanced technology, is one of the reasons that China has risen sharply on the Open Doors World Watch List: it is at number 17, and has risen 26 places in three years.
Lord God, we know that Your children in China face increasing restrictions and persecution as they seek to follow You. Thank You that, despite this opposition, You are still sovereign and Your love for our brothers and sisters is infinite and eternal. Please break down barriers so that Christians in China can form communities, receive teaching and find fellowship together. We especially ask that You would meet with children and young people, and build the new generation of Chinese believers. Amen.
Explore Among the Ashes, a new film and prayer resource for churches from Open Doors. It looks at how the biblical principle of lament can bring us hope and comfort, even in the darkest situations.
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