Chinese government increases surveillance on State-sanctioned clergy

Saturday, November 6, 2021

A Three-Self Church in China
(Photo: Flickr)

(ChinaAid, Midland, TX—November 6, 2021) The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a fact sheet on policy changes within government-sanctioned churches in China. The recent report showed how new measured by the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) severely limits the freedom of clergy members and encourage further persecution of house churches in China.


Clergy from any of the five government-sanctioned religious organizations—Buddhist Association of China, the Chinese Taoist Association, the Islamic Association of China, the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association—must now subject themselves to further regulations from SARA.


Some of these regulations included fully supporting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and preventing “religious extremism,” another label for house churches. Effectively, house churches, which were already illegal, are now the main targets of the CCP and government-sanctioned churches.


New responsibilities also brought new prohibitions, like how government-sanctioned churches cannot interfere in any matters of education or the daily lives of ordinary citizens. SARA installed additional systems to monitor new, current, and retired clergy members. These new systems allow the government to surveil clergy who are suspected of violating any of their stringent restrictions.


While many of these new measures pose difficulties for the state-approved religions, they will create further persecution for house-churches or other forms of authentic religious expression. As USCIRF pointed out, authorities arrested Elder Zhang Chuneli of Ren’ai Reformed Church due to the updated policies.


The full fact sheet by USCIRF is available here.


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