Reports are claiming that the Communist Party in China has begun a new program throughout the country that offers a substantial monetary award to those who report and identify home churches in their communities.
According to the Catholic News Agency, the directive was tested earlier this year in the province of Heilongjiang. Citizens of the main city of Nenjiang were offered around $700 for reporting any suspected religious activity to officials.
The program has now been extended to cities throughout the Middle Kingdom. In addition, the reward has been significantly increased, with the current bounty reaching around $14,000.
Though Christianity is currently legal in China, authorities have made attempts to control the religion -- not only so that it is slightly altered to match the goals of the Chinese regime, but also so that it has little relationship to its Western counterparts.
"The government has orchestrated a campaign to 'sinicise' Christianity, to turn Christianity into a fully domesticated religion that would do the bidding of the party," explained Lian Xi, a professor at Duke University who studies Christianity in modern China (via The Guardian).
As a result, many church leaders are expected to take oaths of allegiance to Chinese-approved versions of Christianity. For example, Catholic bishops and priests are expected to pledge their loyalty to the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the Communist-controlled state Church. Those who have not done so have faced harassment, arrest, and even detention.
In fact, a recent congressional hearing highlighted the disappearance of Bishop James Su Zhimin of the Diocese of Baoding. Zhimin was arrested in 1997 and his fate remains unknown. He was last seen in 2003.
As a result of the actions conducted by the CCP, many Christians have resorted to the types of underground churches that the government is now trying to root out.
But it is not just Christianity that is the target of the communist regime. Islam has also come under attack, as Muslim Uighurs have allegedly been subjected to crimes such as forced reeducation camps, torture, and even forced sterilization (per The Council on Foreign Relations).
Meanwhile, the Middle Kingdom has concurrently pursued anti-religion propaganda campaigns.
"Don't believe in any religion other than the Communist Party. It's enough to believe in the Party and the People's Government," one such poster read.
The new reports of religious discrimination come as the Asian nation is facing serious criticism over the coronavirus pandemic. As was recently reported by The Inquisitr, Sen. Ted Cruz accused the country of a "deliberate coverup" this past week.