In a bid to keep a tighter leash on the country’s growing Christian community, the Chinese government is now employing facial recognition and fingerprint scanning technology at the entrance to churches.
Last month, officials set up two biometric scanning machines at the entrance to Muyang Church in Hubei. According to Christian persecution watchdog Bitter Winter, congregants were then forced to have their faces and fingerprints scanned before they were allowed to enter the sanctuary.
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“A believer revealed to Bitter Winter that over a month ago, the local Two Chinese Christian Councils required all meeting venues established by Three-Self churches in Huangshi city to take believers’ fingerprints and put on file their personal and family information.
The churchgoer is disturbed by the order since the requirement not only puts members of congregations under the government’s constant tracking and surveillance but can also implicate their family members and relatives. He added that those relatives who are civil servants or Communist Party members would be most likely punished or have restrictions imposed on their activities; this can even negatively impact their promotion at work.”
The practice of installing such devices is spreading across the province and provides authorities with vital information on followers of Jesus.
One source who had seen the system in action told the outlet that it was as if congregants were “punching in at work” when they attended worship.
“In this way, the church can know clearly who attends the services and who doesn’t,” the added.
Chinese government officials came under fire recently for interrogating believers who were caught purchasing faith-based books online.
Christians are being invited to “tea sessions,” a colloquial term for police interrogations, after attempting to obtain Christian books through the instant messaging app “WeChat” and an associated online shop called the “Wheat Bookstore.”
Speaking to International Christian Concern (ICC), Father Francis Liu from the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness confirmed that many believers who are seeking to purchase items from the store are being summarily investigated by Chinese government officials.
ICC noted that one such believer was “recently visited by local state security officials thanks to the purchase he made last year.”
“He was asked to provide his cell phone number and WeChat account and had to sign a document to confirm his religious affiliation. His supervisor was asked to sign as well,” the persecution watchdog explained.
As a result of the police action, Wheat Bookstore issued a warning that any purchases made from them may result in a police visit. The shop also advised potential customers on how to approach any conversation with officials.
According to a local source who spoke with ICC, Chinese authorities are attempting to stifle the flow of Christian literature in order to create a “spiritual famine” amongst believers.
“The clampdown on Christians and other religious communities in China is a multifaceted strategy implemented by the Chinese government,” ICC’s Advocacy Director, Matias Perttula, told Faithwire.
“The monitoring of purchases of faith-based materials made by Christians is just another indicator of the oppression that the Chinese government is applying to pressure Christians to cease practicing their faith. The United States and its allies must continue to bring to light these oppressive methods and challenge the Chinese government to implement true freedom of religion and human rights in the country.”