Chinese officials have warned elderly Christians that if they continue to attend church activities not approved by the government, they will no longer be eligible for welfare - or any kind of insurance.
According to persecution watchdog China Aid, a local governing body in China's central Guizhou province announced the termination of welfare for Christians.
Mou, a house church member, told the outlet, "[Officials verbally] announced on July 2 that Christians could not have welfare or any old-age insurance ... Now, the county [government] called on the government in the towns and villages to order believers to sign [a guarantee], stating that if they gathered again, their welfare would be cut off."
Similar persecution is also occurring in China's inland Sichuan province, where 36 Miao Christians, an ethnic minority in China, were detained and then individually released back in 2014. Since that time, the government interrupted their welfare payments.
Zhang Shucai, a member of one of the affected Miao churches, told China Aid earlier this year, "Not long ago, I went back to my hometown and asked my parents about [the welfare payment cancellation]. They told me that they still hadn't received their welfare. [Authorities] only arrested my mother last time, but they canceled the [welfare] of [both of my parents]. "
Over the past two years, China's government has tightened its group on the country's Christians whose followers are said to rival in number the 86 million members of the Communist Party. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity estimates there are 111 million Christians in China, roughly 90 percent Protestant and most Pentecostal. That would make China the third-largest Christian country on earth, following only the United States and Brazil. According to the Center, there are 10,000 conversions every day.
Earlier this year, Chinese officials warned Christian parents that if they continue to take their children to churches not approved by the government, their offspring will be banned from attending college or serving in the military, and will face legal action.
After the notice was issued, members of Huaqiu Church were forced to sign a document saying that they would no longer take minors to church, or their children would be ineligible for the college entrance exam or admittance into a military academy. Additionally, parents who brought their children to church would be sued per the contract.
One elderly church member was forced to endorse a document forbidding him from attending church services so that his grandson's acceptance into a military academy would not be withdrawn.
China Aid notes that according to Chinese legislation, children under the age of 18 may not receive any religious education. The government sanctioned Protestant church, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, specifically forbids its members from "brainwashing" teenagers with religious beliefs and bringing children to religious activities.