The government of Chinese president Xi Jinping focused heavily on forcing Christianity in the country to conform to the Communist Party's agenda, according to a major report on religious persecution.
China Aid, which has been documenting abuses against Christian churches, pastors, activists, and human rights lawyers, said in its report that throughout 2016, the government has engaged in activities to force all religions to "surrender to the authority and leadership of the Chinese Community Party."
"[W]e have good reasons to worry that the major religions in China, especially house churches and underground Catholic and Protestant churches, will suffer the most unprecedented suppression under the name of the 'transforming into the Communist Party of China' since the Cultural Revolution," said China Aid.
China Aid marked 2016 as a major turning point in the religious policy of mainland China — from former President Jiang Zemin's "active guidance of religion and socialist society to mutually adapt" to Xi Jinping's "adhere to the direction of the religions' Sinicization."
Xi has said that "religion should persistently follow the path of Sinicization" of conforming to the Communist Party's rules.
One of the most restrictive pieces of legislation introduced as a draft was the Revised Regulations on Religious Affairs, which looks to coerce house churches to join the state-run Three-Self Patriotic Movement. All churches that do not register are banned.
The government has also tried to "sinicize" religions through the demolition of crosses and by making churches introduce symbols and activities of the Communist Party to their religious sites.
Bob Fu, founder and president of China Aid, told The Christian Post in a previous interview that the government's main ambition is to curb the growth of Christians.
"The top leadership is very increasingly worried about the rapid growth of Christian faith and their public presence, and their social influence," Fu told CP last year.
"It is a political fear for the Communist Party, as the number of Christians in the country far outnumber the members of the Party," he said.
China Aid accused Xi's administration of failing to handle "political, economic, and social affairs," while at the same time endangering religious freedom.
Christian leaders who have suffered at the hands of government officials include human rights lawyers, such as Li Chunfu, who was recently released with psychological and physical trauma after being detained for 18 months in jail on charges of "inciting subversion of state power."
Prominent megachurch pastors who have spoken out against the government's forced destruction of church rooftop crosses have also been punished. Gu Yuese, the former pastor of Chongyi Church, was formally arrested earlier in January on charges of embezzling funds.