China has announced it will soon impose intensified restrictions on Christian churches as the Communist government continues to tighten its grip on the country's fastest-growing religion.
According to a report from Breitbart, the Party's official newspaper on religious issues, Zhongguo Mingzu Bao, declared that China's President Xi Jinping is "serious" on religion, mentioning increased controls on churches, clergy and dioceses.
The article emphasized that Xi is endeavoring to minimize foreign influence on Chinese institutions, including churches, saying that all religions should be managed by religious organizations from within China.
"There is no need for certain groups and individuals outside China to worry about this," Breitbart quotes the report as stating.
The article also reportedly quoted from Xi's address at the central United Front Work Department meeting earlier this year, where he stated that all religions must adapt to socialist policy, calling this "a common principle for all religions to comply with" since China became Communist in 1949.
An in-depth report from Reuters notes that China is currently conducting the worst domestic crackdown on human rights in two decades. The Communist government has specifically targeted Christians over the past year, using intimidation tactics such as arbitrary detention of Christian clergy and the closing of churches.
Activists say the crackdown exhibits the government's growing discomfort with Christianity, whose followers are said to rival in number the 86 million members of the Communist Party.
Breitbart notes that nearly 1,000 rights activists were detained last year alone-almost as many as in the previous two years combined. Additionally, more than 1,300 crosses have been removed and several churches have been completely demolished by government forces.
In Zhejiang, a region commonly referred to as "China's Jerusalem" due to its large Christian population, special police have begun monitoring Sunday sermons and warned pastors not to speak of the anti-cross campaign, according to a report from the AP. In the past, police have walked through church services, snatching small red crosses held in protest by worshipers.
In August, police arrested China's most prominent Christian lawyer, Zhang Kai, who was known for counseling a number of Christian churches throughout the country, especially against the government's cross-removal campaign.
According to Yang Xingquan, a colleague of Mr. Zhang's, the Christian lawyer was detained by state police and charged with endangering state security and "assembling a crowd to disrupt social order," a charge that could place him under secretive detention for six months.
One evangelical lawyer in Zhejiang contacted by The Christian Science Monitor said he had recently been fired from his job by government forces. However, he said he is not seeking revenge, but instead felt that "more and more believers see the government's actions and behavior as illegal. We are behaving. It is the government that is not behaving. We are more sure of this."