Some dioceses of the government-controlled Patriotic Catholic Church in Henan Province informed of having received notices from municipal authorities requesting them to collect data on the backgrounds of their congregations, especially those from poor families, reports ucanews.com.
Authorities require the churches to report on the number and backgrounds of worshippers, the instances of minors entering religious venues, and cases where neon lights or speakers are installed in places of worship. Churches are also required to publicly display lists of clergy, and the Chinese flag must be on permanent display at religious venues as well as the national anthem must be sung at each service. Officials will closely supervise the implementation of the notice by conducting un-announced visits.
While the government claims this “special project” is aimed at improving the way churches and other religious venues are managed, believers and priests see it as a pretext for restricting and suppressing religious activity in the province.
One of the interviewed priests expressed concern about what the government was intending to do with the data about congregation members. He is refusing to cooperate with authorities out of fear that anyone named in the register could be barred from receiving state subsidies as punishment for practicing their faith.
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Bitter Winter plans to report on how religions are allowed, or not allowed, to operate in China and how some are severely persecuted after they are labeled as “xie jiao,” or heterodox teachings. We plan to publish news difficult to find elsewhere, analyses, and debates.
Placed under the editorship of Massimo Introvigne, one of the most well-known scholars of religion internationally, “Bitter Winter” is a cooperative enterprise by scholars, human rights activists, and members of religious organizations persecuted in China (some of them have elected, for obvious reasons, to remain anonymous).