As part of their campaign to “eradicate pornography and illegal publications,” Chinese government officials have begun seizing unlicensed religious material, including Bibles.
In December of last year, the police raided a house church meeting venue in Lichuan county, confiscating anything they deemed “pirated.” The agents stole several boxes of Bibles, hymn books, and other religious literature found in the church, according to persecution watchdog Bitter Winter. The officials also logged the personal information of all the congregation members who were present during the operation.
The raid is just one of many that have been taking place across the country in recent months, as the persecution of Chinese Christians continues to ramp up.
In 2019, a document released by the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau of a county in Hebei Province ordered daily church inspections to seek out un-approved religious publications and confiscate them immediately.
As Bitter Winter revealed, not even state-sanctioned churches are exempt from being investigated:
“On December 20, about ten officials from the Lichuan county’s United Front Work Department and police officers raided a Three-Self church to look for “pirated Bibles.” A preacher there told them that all the Bibles had been printed by the Amity Printing Company in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province, which is approved by the Two National Christian Councils. Regardless, the officials confiscated 30 Bibles they found in the church.”
A preacher from another Three-Self church in the county also reported that government employees warned him that any Bibles that are not approved by the Two National Christian Councils would be confiscated as “pirated publication.”
“If our Bibles are taken away, we have no more. We are thinking of asking our congregation members to hide them in the mountains,” the preacher told Bitter Winter.
China is currently ranked at number 23 on the Open Doors World Watchlist, with the level of persecution experienced by native Christians listed as “very high.” Despite the horrific situation for believers, China’s underground protestant church is exploding in numbers — there are currently around 100 million followers of Jesus living in the country.
Indeed, experts believe that the communist nation could hit 250 million by 2030, making it the most Christian country on earth. Tremendous growth, considering that the levels of persecution are unlikely to subside.
“The situation for Christians has deteriorated all over China,” the charity notes in its factsheet. “The Chinese government wants to “sinicize” every religious ideology in the country—meaning, to make beliefs, including Christianity, fall in line with their interpretation of Communism. This means a steady drip of pressure, where the government increases surveillance, control and restrictions of believers.”