Tens of thousands of house church pastors and evangelists across China have gone into hiding as the Communist Party prepares for what seems like a "final assault" on Christianity in an attempt to eradicate it from the country, according to missions group Asia Harvest.
In its final newsletter for 2020, Asia Harvest said pastors have disconnected from their phones and computers so that government authorities can no longer use those devices to track their movements. These pastors have also reportedly destroyed the microchips inside their ID cards so authorities cannot track their locations using those devices either.
“Each person in China must have an ID card. It is impossible for a person to catch a flight or train, open a bank account, get a job, or rent an apartment without using their card. Each ID card contains a computer chip which is also used to track people's movements,” the newsletter added.
While Asia Harvest declined The Christian Post's request for an interview, CP has reported on many of the key concerns regarding rising persecution that are mentioned in its newsletter, including the regime's attempts to "corrupt the Gospel" by rewriting biblical accounts.
One example of this is a communist textbook that's being used in Chinese schools that falsifies the biblical account found in John 8:3–11. The textbook claims that Jesus murdered the woman who was found in adultery and then referred to Himself as a sinner, too.
The textbook, published by the government-run University of Electronic Science and Technology Press, states: “The crowd wanted to stone the woman to death as per their law. But Jesus said, ‘Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.’ Hearing this, they slipped away one by one. When the crowd disappeared, Jesus stoned the sinner to death, saying, ‘I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.’”
By doing this, the regime hopes to "control the Church and ultimately render it powerless and subservient to the communist system," Asia Harvest added. "The government has openly announced plans to ‘reinterpret’ the Bible and other religious texts, so they will have ‘socialist characteristics.’”
China has also tightened restrictions on the distribution of religious materials in recent months by threatening fines, the closure of printing shops, or even imprisonment for selling Christian books or allowing customers to photocopy hymns, according to Bitter Winter, a publication that monitors religious liberty violations in China.
In October, a printing shop in Luoyang, a prefecture-level city in the central province of Henan, was raided by authorities searching for banned religious materials.
Censorship targeting Christians in China has become so severe that even official government-sanctioned Christian groups are now using the Chinese Pinyin initials “JD” to replace Chinese characters for “Christ” for items in their online bookstore, according to U.S.-based China Aid.
Two official government-sanctioned religious organizations — the Christian Council of China and the Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of China — have updated titles and descriptions of all their books on “Tianfengshuyuan,” their official WeChat book store, reported China Aid, which exposes abuses and promotes religious freedom, human rights and the rule of law in China.
In April 2018, the Chinese government banned online retailers from selling copies of the Bible. Legally, the Bible can only be distributed by government-approved agencies that supervise Christian churches in China.
Since then, the crackdown on Bibles and religious literature has only increased.
In September, a Chinese Christian online bookstore owner was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined nearly $30,000 for engaging in what the communist regime deems as “illegal business operations.”
Other crackdowns on Christians have involved ordering Christians to renounce their faith and replace displays of Jesus with portraits of Chairman Mao and President Xi Jinping, as well as the ongoing demolition of churches.
To combat these threats to the faith, Asia Harvest has sent 13 million Bibles to China over the years. In 2020, the group sent the most Bibles of any year yet, the newsletter said.
“By the miraculous hand of God, the project continues to operate full steam. As long as the Lord continues to hold the door open, we plan to keep helping our brothers and sisters in the Chinese house churches have access to God's Word,” the newsletter said.
Despite persecution, Christianity is growing in China. According to the World Evangelical Alliance, the Protestant church has grown from 1.3 million members in 1949 to at least 81 million members today. Similarly, the Catholic Church in China has grown from 3 million members to over 12 million during the same 50-year period.
But according to national statistics from the China State Council, Protestant Christians make up only an estimated 3% of China’s population and number around 38 million people, The Economist reports. This estimate, however, is much lower than what the WEA reports and doesn't include Christians in the underground church.
Open Doors ranks China at No. 23 on its list of 50 countries where it's most difficult to be a Christian. The nonprofit notes that all churches are perceived as a threat if they become too large, too political, or invite foreign guests.