The Chinese government is offering cash rewards for those willing to spy on the underground church, a leading persecution watch group has reported.
According to Bitter Winter, in August, the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau of Gushi county encouraged residents to collect photos, videos, audio recording to spy on what they called “illegal religious activity venues.” An award of 500 RMB (£50) was offered per tip-off.
The notice stipulated that churches without registration certificates or not approved by religious affairs authorities are “illegal religious activity venues”. It also added that many believers are being “cheated and lured by religious organisations into private meeting venues” to attend “illegal religious activities” during the coronavirus pandemic. Authorities claimed this had caused a “great negative impact on security and stability in the field of religion”.
The persecution watchdog says that the Chinese government continues to up the pressure on Christians in China. ChinaAid and Voice of the Martyrs had reported earlier last year that the Chinese government was hiring citizens to spy on churches, according to Christian leaders in the country. VOTM had also reported that the spies are reporting people children to church. “In February 2018, regulations were introduced barring anyone under the age of 18 from entering religious venues or being taught about religion.”
Christians in other areas of the country also reported the use of paid informants who are being used to work against them.
“A church elder from the Henan province stated that officials within his area had recruited someone of each village to scrutinise the worship services, paying them five times the normal monthly stipend given to poor households,” Voice of the Martyrs said.
In July, other posters promoting the “proactive reporting on illegal religious activities” were put up in locations across Henan province including the cities of Mengzhou, Jiyuan and Shangqiu.
Residents were instructed that gatherings of three to five Christians should be reported immediately.
Officials say they are ensuring a level of control over the state-mandated ‘Three-Self’ churches and keeping close tabs on the growth of the underground church.