What does persecution look like in China?
The most overt persecution in China often takes place in regions where Buddhism or Islam are the majority religions—anyone who converts to Christianity is seen as a traitor to their ethnicity and family. These believers may be threatened or even harmed, all to convince them to return to the family's religion.
However, persecution and discrimination are slowly spreading throughout most of China. The Chinese Communist Party's goal is to make sure churches don't fall out of line with official viewpoints. In the case of official churches, this means they are encouraged to praise and pledge allegiance to the Communist Party and its ideology. Churches that claim Christ as King are viewed with suspicion, especially since Christianity is seen as a primarily Western influence. It's always been true that house churches exist in a legal gray area, where they are unregistered and technically not allowed, but largely tolerated. New regulations continue to chip away at this status quo. Children under 18 continue to be forbidden from attending church. Most churches are monitored and can be shut down without warning.
Digital persecution also impacts the church in China. Restrictions passed in 2018 as part of a wide-ranging law on religion have made it harder for Christians to use the Internet or social media to pursue their faith. The government's growing authoritarianism means that every Chinese citizen can be sure that none of their digital footprint is out of the state's view. Christian chat groups are routinely shut down, and the government's sophisticated surveillance system has been rolled out to target minority groups in some regions. Observers fear this technology will increasingly be used to target Christians, especially those in house churches.
Converts from a Muslim or Buddhist background from minority ethnic groups face the most severe violations of religious freedom in China, with families and communities driving the pressure. But across China, Christians and Christian churches face increasing restrictions and monitoring. As the persecution grows more and more digital, no place in China is completely free from pressure. Anyone belong to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or one of the youth organizations that are parts of the CCP are technically not allowed to participate in many spiritual activities, as noted by the Pew Research Center.
"It might look depressing to outsiders, but it is common to face adversities and pressures from the world as Christians, since we are different. We hope that our children will follow Christ from an early age and know that God reigns and He is in control. Despite the restrictions, we remain strong because of God’s grace, and this deepens our faith. God is always our priority, and nothing can take His place in our lives."Ai, the mother of a home-schooled Christian girl
What has changed this year?
Over the last five years, the situation in China has slowly and steadily deteriorated, and the 2024 World Watch List reporting period was no exception. While violence against believers remained rare, church closures and raids continued to happen, with pressure across all parts of life steadily rising. This year, the government passed regulations requiring churches to post signs that read, "Love the Communist Party; Love the country; Love the religion."
While this law only impacts state-sanctioned churches and implementation seems uneven, house church leaders are increasingly worried about crackdowns. In one province, citizens were required to use a state-controlled smartphone app to register before they attended religious services. Parents are increasingly concerned about raising their children in the faith, as attending church is illegal for anyone under 18. And the ongoing digital pressure continues to increase as China exerts its control over citizens' lives.
Through local partners and churches, Open Doors supports believers in China with discipleship and persecution survival training, helping serve the younger generation of believers, and by providing contextualised Christian literature to believers who have converted from Islam or Buddhism.
- As China continues to tighten its grip on religious freedom this year, pray for wisdom for Christians to know how they should continue to honor and worship God under changing circumstances.
- Pray for young people who are technically not allowed to attend church. Pray that God would strengthen their faith and give them—and their parents—courage.
- Ask God to strengthen and encourage church leaders who are pressured and monitored.
Father God, we ask that You would be with and bless Your people in China. As the pressure grows, we ask that You would give them a sense of rest and peace—that they would know You are with them. Please help young believers find a way to learn more about You, and for their parents to know how to wisely train their children and share the gospel. We lift up church leaders who are targeted, that they will have courage and wisdom as they care for their congregations. We pray also for believers who have converted from the faith of their family or ethnic group—please help them know they aren't alone. We ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen.