Anyone who wants to attend a service in a government-controlled Three-Self church in Xinjiang’s Urumqi city must not only present their identification card but also have their identity checked by a facial recognition system.
Since the beginning of 2018, to enter the church on Nanwei Road in the Hi-Tech Development Zone of Urumqi, members of the congregation have been required to show their ID cards. As of July, the authorities have installed a facial recognition system that believers have to go through if they want to attend a church service.
A member of the congregation told Bitter Winter that to get inside the church for a Sunday service takes a long time because of the lines to go through ID verification. Sometimes, by the time the identity of all the people is checked, the service is almost over.
Even with the facial recognition system, believers are not allowed to enter the church if they fail to provide their ID cards: both means of identity verification are to be implemented. If members of the congregation forget their IDs at home, government-appointed security guards at the door inform them that the order to verify the identity of believers is issued by the government, and those who do not provide an ID have to be turned away.
Protestant churches that belong to the government-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement across China have been subjected to increasing persecution since the new Religious Affairs Regulations came into force in February this year.
Reported by Li Zaili