Difficulties for believers have increased as the new 2018 Regulations on Religious Affairs limit many religious activities to registered sites and introduce further restrictions.(1) On 21st March 2018 oversight of religious affairs was transferred from the State Administration of Religious Affairs to the United Front Work Department, an agency of the Chinese Communist Party.(2) There are fears that China’s new “social credit system” – designed to reward good citizenship and punish bad – will be used to discriminate against Christians.(3) Education is used as a tool of social conditioning: in some regions pupils were reportedly required to sign a statement saying they will “promote atheism, and oppose belief in God”.(4) In other areas problems continue. Christian clergy are still subject to arbitrary arrest(5) and building regulations are increasingly used as a pretext for church demolitions. Despite the September 2018 agreement between the Vatican and China, the Catholic Church’s status continues to be complex: two underground bishops were formally replaced by bishops from the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association; and even after the agreement, state agents destroyed Marian shrines in Shanxi and Guizhou.(6)

1. “China revises regulation on religious affairs”, The State Council of the People’s Republic of China, 7th September 2017: (accessed 16th July 2019).
2. “Communist Party takes control of religious affairs”, CSW, 22nd March 2018, (accessed 16th July 2019).
3. “China’s dystopian present: could ʻsocial scoringʼ surveillance increase pressure on Christians?”, Barnabus Fund, 27th November 2018, (accessed 16th July 2019).
4. The phrase “belief in God” can also be translated as “theism”. Piao Junying, “Students Forced to Sign Religion-Rejection Commitments”, Bitter Winter: A magazine on Religious Liberty and Human Rights in China, 2nd February 2019, (accessed 16th July 2019).
5. “Chinese officials again detain underground bishop during Holy Week”, Catholic News Agency, 27th March 2018:
6. “China-Vatican accord followed by the destruction of two shrines in Shanxi and Guizhou (videos)”, Asia News, 25th October 2019,
7. “Bibles pulled from online stores as China increases control of religion”, CNN, 5th April 2018:
8. “Chinese state Protestants plan “socialist” Christianity,” UCA News, 16th April 2018:
9. Bernardo Cervellera, “Wenzhou’s bishop Shao Zhumin taken by police”, Asia News, 9th November 2019,
10. Christian Ellis, “11 Christian Children Arrested in Violent Raid as China Increases Persecution”, CBN, 6th March 2019, ; “Christian Prisoners of Conscience: Pastor Wang Yi”, Barnabus Fund, (accessed 11th June 2019).
11. “Chinese Govt offers financial reward for turning in Christians”, Christian institute, 2nd April 2019,
in-christians/?e050419 (accessed 11th June 2019).

April 2018

The Bible was banned from sale online(7) ahead of a new version compatible with Sinicisation and socialism.(8)

November 2018

Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou was arrested for the fifth time in two years. Reports suggested that the bishop of the “underground” Catholic Church would be held in isolation and subject to indoctrination in Communist ideology for 10-15 days. After he was seized in May 2017, he was detained for 7 months.(9)

February 2019

At 8pm on the evening of Sunday 24th, 44 members of the Early Rain Covenant Church – including 11 children – were taken into custody in Chengdu city. Two members, “Tang Chunliang and his wife were hit in the face by a plainclothes police officer at the police station”. One officer savagely beat the pastor’s mother, grabbing her hair and kicking her, while another held her down. Most members were released in the early hours of Monday between 2am and 6am, 11 were placed in administrative detention. In December 2018 local authorities had formally closed the church, arresting Pastor Wang-Yi and 160 Christians, for “inciting subversion of state power”.(10)

March 2019

Chinese officials in Guangzhou city introduced cash rewards for those who inform on underground churches and other “unofficial” places of worship. Those with useful information will receive 100 yuan (£11), which could rise to 10,000 yuan – about two months’ average salary – for those who help identify and arrest ministers and members from unofficial religious groups.(11)

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