Authorities in China are offering cash rewards to whoever would report “illegal religious activities,” said reports from religious persecution watchdogs.
In Heilongjiang Province, for instance, informants can receive up to 1,000 yuan (US$150) for tips about “illicit foreign infiltration.”
A report in China Christian Daily said that in the city of Qiqihar, people are told to report “unqualified religious personnel,” “preaching and distributing printed religious works,” and “private house gatherings,” among others.
It says that the measures aim to “strengthen the control of illegal religious activities in the district, prevent any COVID-19 cluster resulting from religious gatherings, mobilize the public to engage in preventing, suppressing illegal religious activities, and ensure a harmonious and stable religious landscape.”
Similar reward systems were also offered by the Boshan District in Zibo and in Weihai City, Shandong.
Unauthorized religious training and summer or winter camps attended by minors, or any religious activity for “parenting purposes” are prohibited and should be reported.
Unapproved Internet religious information, religious donation campaigns that violate the law, and charitable activities for evangelism are also included.
Since last year, city and county governments in places like Fujian, Guangxi, Henan, Hebei and Liaoning have been offering financial incentives for informants.
Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern said that while the report did not specify which religion is targeted, “it is self-evident that house churches are being suppressed.”
Open Doors USA, which monitors persecution in over 60 countries, estimates that there are about 97 million Christians in China, a large percentage of whom worship in what China considers to be “illegal” and unregistered underground house churches.
The Christian Post reported that religious persecution in China intensified in 2020, with thousands of Christians affected by church closures and other human rights abuses.
Under the direction of President Xi Jinping, officials from the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP, have been enforcing strict controls on religion, according to a report released in March by the US-based group China Aid.
Authorities in China are also cracking down on Christianity by removing Bible apps and Christian WeChat public accounts as new highly restrictive administrative measures on religious staff went into effect this year.
China is ranked on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians.
The US State Department has also labeled China as a “country of particular concern” for “continuing to engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”