This was decided by the local Religious Affairs Administration. Informants are asked to provide “audiovisual material that can prove the facts denounced.” 10% of Chinese Catholics live in Henan; the underground community is strong. Everything is part of the policy of “sinicization” of religions promoted by Xi Jinping.
Beijing () – Informants will be rewarded 600-1,200 yuan (81-162 euros) for reporting “illegal religious activities”. This was decided by the Zhumadian (Henan) religious affairs administration in a record dated March 13, which was made public in recent days.
This is not the first time that local authorities have encouraged whistleblowers to crack down on religious communities that they consider to not conform to the dictates of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and are therefore seen as a threat to social stability. Such situations occurred in Heilongjiang and Shandong in 2021, and in Fujian, Guangxi, Hebei, Liaoning, and again in Henan in 2019.
Zhumadian Municipality encourages “public participation” in the fight against illegal acts in the field of religion. Above all, it asks possible spies to provide “audiovisual materials that can prove the denounced facts.”
The municipal decree does not refer to any particular religion. However, 10% of Chinese Catholics live in Henan. As in Fujian, the local unofficial (underground) Church, which does not recognize religious bodies under Party control, is very strong.
Recently, the provincial authorities made it mandatory for believers of all faiths to register in order to attend religious services, which applies to churches and mosques as well as Buddhist temples.
It is worth mentioning that for almost two years the local police have illegally detained (without conviction or charges) Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang. The Sino-Vatican Agreement on the appointment of bishops, signed in 2018, and renewed in October 2020 and 2022, has not stopped the persecution of Catholics, especially unofficial ones.
Then there are the testimonials it has picked up over the years, with cases in Henan of crosses being destroyed and uprooted; religious couplets of good wishes covered or removed; blackmailing poor families who had to destroy sacred images in their homes to receive subsidies.
All of this is part of Xi Jinping’s policy of “sinicization” of religions, in a climate of increasing oppression against religions, as was made clear during the recent annual session of the National People’s Assembly.
The regime officially started the process in 2015. On June 1, 2022, the “Measures for the financial management of religious centers” entered into force. Shortly before, in March, it was the turn of the “Administrative Measures for Religious Information Services on the Internet”: it is no longer possible to carry out religious activities online in China without prior authorization from the government.
In February last year, the State Administration for Religious Affairs had released the “Administrative Measures for Religious Personnel”, a document on the management of clergy, monks, priests, bishops, etc. In February 2018, the Party had instead adopted the “New Regulations on Religious Activities,” according to which religious personnel can only perform their duties if they affiliate with ‘official’ organizations and submit to the CCP.