Faith leaders in China’s Henan Province have been ordered to disclose personal information about the people attending their churches and also ensure that the national anthem is sung during each service, UG Christian News has learnt.
The leaders are however refusing to cooperate out of fear that anyone named in the register could be barred from receiving state subsidies as punishment for practicing their faith, according to UAC News.
“This is totally unreasonable. I suspect their hidden agenda may be to cancel people’s low-income subsidies,” said one of the clergymen, who declined to give his name for fear of reprisals from the state.
Per the report, the UCA news agency explained the government purports that the details obtained will be used to better how churches are managed moving forward, but one cleric from Luoyang Diocese of Sanmenxia City said he is skeptical.
Another priest in the Anyang Diocese of Henan told the local news urgency that he received the same orders from the authorities.
The Church leaders told UAC News that local officials visited some of their places of worship on July 1 and handed them a circular titled “Special Office Emergency Notice”, ordering clergy to follow the instructions laid out therein.
The notice contained five points including one mandating that the number and backgrounds of worshippers of all faiths be documented and reported to authorities by 6pm on July 4.
Religious leaders, according to UAC News, were also told to inform local officials of any minors who enter religious venues, and of any cases where neon lights or speakers have been installed in places of worship.
Lists of clergy must also be hung up at parishes so that officials can confirm they have the necessary permits to preach from the pulpit, the notice said.
A third point says the Chinese flag must be on permanent display at religious venues and the national anthem sung at each service, the priest said.
The other two points relate to keeping prelates updated on newly revised regulations pertaining to religious affairs, and providing statistics to improve town and village archives, the open-church priest said.
Personnel from the special project office will make unannounced visits to churches in the province as and when they deem fit to ensure they are complying with the new rules, the notice warned.
Investigations will be carried out to ensure all districts are cooperating, it stated.The priest said religious venues were being heavily scrutinized and those without permits shuttered. Even those with the right credentials have been warned that they will be punished if they admit minors or Party members, Clergy told UCA News.