Priests in dioceses in China’s Henan province report that the local government is asking churches to provide statistics on worshippers as the state tightens its grip on religion under new rules.
Henan is thought to have one of the most significant proportions of Christians of any Chinese province.
One priest in Luoyang Diocese told UCANews anonymously that his parish received a notice from municipal authorities on 1 July requesting churches in the province to gather statistics on the backgrounds of their congregations, especially those from poor families. “This is totally unreasonable,” he said. “I suspect one hidden agenda may be to cancel people’s low-income subsidies.” While the government claims the notice is aimed at improving the way churches and other venues are managed, the priest said it was likely a pretext for restricting and suppressing religious activity.
Other points in the notice included demands to inform local officials of any minors who enter religious venues and to provide lists of clergy in parishes so that officials can confirm they have the necessary permits to preach. A third point says the Chinese flag must be on permanent display at religious venues and the national anthem sung at each service. In addition, unannounced visits will be made to ensure compliance. Another priest in Henan’s Anyang Diocese confirmed to UCANews that he had received the same notice.
After China's revised regulations on religious affairs came into force on 1 February, Henan has seen the seizure of churches and church-run kindergartens, and the confiscation of church property. Last month, local government officials removed images of Jesus at the popular Our Lady of Mount Carmel pilgrimage site in Tianjiajing village of Anyang Diocese.