China’s communist regime has ordered citizens in the country’s northeastern region to spy on Christians and report any “illegal religious activities,” including preaching and religious house gatherings. Informants will be rewarded with $150 for each tip, according to a report.
The administration of the Meilisi Daur District in Heilongjiang Province’s Qiqihar city released a document titled, “The Reward System For Reporting Illegal Religious Activities Offences,” saying informants would be paid up to 1,000 yuan ($150), China Christian Daily reported.
Officials, it says, are looking for any information — through a phone call, email or letter — on unqualified religious personnel, unauthorized trans-regional activities, preaching and distribution of printed religious literature, audio-visual products outside places of worship, unauthorized donations or private house gatherings.
The objective, it adds, is 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.”
The document was released this month by the Meilisi Daur District United Front Work Department of Qiqihar.
Similar reward systems were later introduced in Zibo city’s Boshan District and Weihai City’s Shandong area.
Previously, such rewards have been offered in Fujian, Guangxi, Henan, Hebei and Liaoning.
“While they do not specify which religion they are targeting, it is self-evident that house churches are being suppressed,” the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern commented.
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.
According to recently-released reports, 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 U.S.-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 U.S. State Department has also labeled China as a “country of particular concern” for “continuing to engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”