China's Communist Party forced six churches in Beijing to shut down after attempts to bribe members to leave failed, a new report has revealed.
Persecution watchdog China Aid reports that authorities closed six branches of Zion Church, located in Beijing, claiming that its members refused to register with the government. One police officer said, "We asked Zion Church to register, but the church has continuously refused. Other churches have all registered. It is just Zion Church that refuses to register."
However, church officials dispute this account, as authorities have attempted to close the church for months. Since May, government officials have bribed attendees to leave the church by promising them good occupations, good schools for their children, solutions to other problems, or threatening their jobs. Eventually, authorities forced the church to close.
The church's pastor, Jin Mingri, claims officials never asked his church to register with the government "No [government] department has asked me to register the church in the past 10 years," he said.
In an attempt to "Sinicize" Christianity and infuse it with "Chinese characteristics," China has arrested hundreds of pastors and church congregants. Additionally, dozens of churches have been demolished, with officials claiming that curtain buildings must be torn down due to new zoning laws.
News of the church's closing comes on the heels of a report from The Associated Press in which believers described increasing persecution under President Xi Jinping's government.
A 62-year-old shopkeeper from Henan province revealed that local officials recently showed up at their church and demanded that the cross, Bible verse calligraphy, and a painting of the "Last Supper" be taken down.
"I've always prayed for our country's leaders, for our country to get stronger," the shopkeeper said.
"They were never this severe before, not since I started going to church in the '80s. Why are they telling us to stop now?" he asked.
A dozen Chinese Christians revealed that their gatherings have been raided, and that they have been subjected to interrogations and surveillance because of their beliefs.
The wife of one pastor said that government authorities have prevented church members from being baptized and have even interrupted Christmas services.
"The government says that we have religious freedom, but really there is no freedom at all," said the woman.
"Many of our Christian brothers and sisters are upset and fearful."
Persecution watchdog Open Doors ranks Chin 43rd on its list of 50 countries where believers face the most persecution.