South China Morning Post: Chinese city offers US$1,500 reward to help snare foreign religious leaders



Friday, March 29, 2019

South China Morning Post
Mimi Lau
Published: 2:58pm, 29 Mar, 2019
  • Southern metropolis of Guangzhou introduces cash incentives as campaign to sinicise faith groups hots up
  • Biggest payouts reserved for information leading to arrest of clerics from outside mainland China
Guangzhou has become the first major city in China to offer financial rewards to people who report “illegal religious activities”, as authorities continue to crack down on underground gatherings.

China has embarked on a nationwide drive to
sinicise foreign religious traditions.
Photo: Handout
An announcement was made recently by the southern city’s ethnic and religious affairs department, which said that members of the public could earn up to 10,000 yuan (US$1,500) for providing tip-offs about illicit groups.

The move comes amid a nationwide drive to sinicise foreign religious traditions, and after the country’s religious affairs regulation was amended in February last year to give grass-roots officials more power to act against religious practitioners and impose tougher penalties on worshippers.

Much of the crackdown has been directed at
unregistered Protestant churches, which despite the restrictions have been flourishing in Chinese cities. But the religious controls have also seen the demolition of Catholic churches and convents, Buddhist statues, temples and mosques on the grounds they had not been approved.

Under the new reward scheme in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, informants can earn between 5,000 and 10,000 yuan for tips leading to the arrest of a non-Chinese religious leader, according to a statement on the department’s website.

Much of the crackdown has been directed at
unregistered Protestant churches, which despite
the restrictions have been flourishing across China.
Photo: Sina
Other payments include 3,000 to 5,000 yuan for information leading to the closure of a foreign religious group, and between 100 and 3,000 yuan for tips about locally organised gatherings and their leaders.

The measures aim to identify religious activities that support extremism, endanger national security and disturb the public order, including “unsanctioned religious venues, groups, institutions, activities, donation, training and conferences”, the website statement said.

Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the Divinity School of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the mobilisation of grass-roots officials and community groups for social control purposes, including cracking down on religious activities, was increasingly common.

“This will compress the survival space of house churches,” he said. “Not only will they have to deal with the official crackdown but now also the threat from their neighbours.”

While Guangzhou is the first Chinese metropolis to offer cash rewards to aid a nationwide crackdown on intrusive religious activities, similar schemes have been running elsewhere in the country for some time.

Authorities in Guangzhou are offering up to
5,000 yuan for information leading to the
closure of a foreign religious group.
Photo: Handout
In the central province of Henan, which is regarded as a religious hotbed, numerous city and county governments have since April last year been offering financial incentives for whistle-blowers, though they are smaller than those on offer in Guangzhou.

Under the revised religions affairs regulation, people accused of providing a venue for an “illegal religious event” can face a fine of between 20,000 yuan and 200,000 yuan.

Also, education facilities that allow their premises to be used for such activities – excluding sanctioned religious schools – can have their licences revoked.


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