Ever since the restrictions started being implemented in the beginning of last year, the young are not allowed to practice their faith openly.
by Zhou Xiaolu
After the new Regulations on Religious Affairs came into force in February 2018, the Chinese authorities have been intensifying the supervision of minors practicing their faith: from extensive anti-religious propaganda on school campuses to crackdowns on church-organized Sunday schools and summer camps.
On July 24, officials from the United Front Work Department and Religious Affairs Bureau of Huazhou district in Weinan, a prefecture-level city in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, raided a state-approved Three-Self church in Guapo town and discovered a notebook with Biblical verses, some transcribed by children.
A meeting of town government officials, Education Bureau leaders, and persons in charge of the town’s religious venues was immediately convened to discuss the matter. As punishment, the church was closed down for ten days for “rectification,” canceling all services there. Twenty-three Christian churches in the district were also investigated.
Subsequently, the Education Bureau instructed all primary school and kindergarten teachers in the district to find out who these young Christians were. They soon were identified, and their parents were summoned for talks and received warnings.
Primary schools and kindergartens in the local area also received notices about the matter. The incident was used as an opportunity for another round of anti-religious education aimed at both students and their parents.
The notice stated that religion is considered dangerous for minors, and they are prohibited from participating in any religion-related activities, “so as to help them establish a correct worldview, outlook on life, and system of values and form a healthy mind.”
“Chinese youth have so many problems, such as internet addiction, school violence, smoking, and drug use. Believing in God and staying away from sins is a very good thing for children,” said a Christian, puzzled as to why the government was so obsessed over the matter.
“We also acknowledge that it is very good for children to believe in God, but the Communist Party believes that its successors are being taken away,” a Public Security Bureau employee told Bitter Winter. “The CCP thinks that too many people believe in God, and religious belief must be restricted.”
On August 23, a Great Praise house church in Jiyuan city in the central province of Henan was preparing to hold a summer camp activity in an abandoned factory when local police officers besieged 56 young believers, over a dozen of whom were children. The presence of more than ten gun-wielding officers terrified the children.
On July 15, the police also raided a summer camp jointly organized by Ark Church and Olive Tree Church – both house churches in Foshan, a prefecture-level city in the southern province of Guangdong.
Video: Law enforcement officers raided the summer camp organized by Olive Tree Church in Foshan city:
The police handcuffed the church preacher’s hands behind his back and pinned him to the ground. Another believer’s wrist was injured when her hands were bound up behind her back. Eight church co-workers and believers were taken away for interrogation, the names, schools, and phone number of all young participants have been registered.
Video: Officials from the Public Security Bureau and Civil Affairs Bureau questioned a co-worker from Olive Tree Church.
In July, on the second day of classes at a Three-Self church Sunday school in Huyi district of Shaanxi’s Xi’an city, 12 officials from four government departments raided the church. The Sunday school teacher and the church’s elder were taken away for questioning. They were threatened to be treated as political prisoners if they continued operating the Sunday school, and the church would be closed down.
“Children are forced to study the Communist Party’s theories and Xi Jinping Thought at school every day now. Without Sunday schools, there will be no young people who believe in God. How will there still be churches in the future then? This is a genuine problem,” a Sunday school teacher from Shenyang city in the northeastern province of Liaoning told Bitter Winter.
As a result of the government’s strict control over minors in places of worship, the number of children attending the Sunday school of which she is in charge has dropped from more than 100 to just over 20 children. They are now forced to hold their gatherings in secret in a cramped 10-square-meter space.