Sophie Williams
The Daily Mail

Authorities in China have tightened their grip on the country’s churches by ordering that children are to be banned from joining religious groups. 

The ban also prohibits children from attending religious sermons and other activities in several provinces across the country. 

Control on the country’s churches began several years ago when places of worship were ordered to remove crosses from their buildings in Zhejiang province

Earlier this month, over one hundred churches in Wenzhou, China‘s Zhejiang province reportedly received a notice from government officials informing them that young people will be banned from entering churches, according to a report

Minors are also reportedly banned from participating in religious activities. 

Members of the church were told not to participate in religious activities and churches were not allowed to organise a youth summer camp. 

William Nee, researcher for Amnesty International told MailOnline: ‘At this point its unclear how widespread the bans on children attending church services are in China, but these alarming reports seem to be coming in from fairly diverse areas throughout the country.’ 

He says that the move reflects the tightening control of religion in particular Islam and Christianity under President Xi Jinping

‘China is in the midst of a religious revival and the current government seems concerned that religion could be a means through which foreign values may ‘penetrate’ into China and ultimately affect political stability.’ 

The Communist Party of China already stipulates that members and CCP officials can not believe in religion. 

According to UCA News, the ban also promises that officials will investigate government approved churches and underground congregations who operate outside the tightly controlled Beijing-run Catholic and Protestant Churches

While in Hunan province, Liang Guochao, head of the Education Bureau, stressed making a ‘decisive effort to prevent religions infiltrating into schools and to guide students to consciously resist religious cults.’ 

In neighbouring Henan province, a document was issued in July reinforcing the communist policy of not allowing religions to run study classes for minors.   

Nee told MailOnline: ‘In an important speech on religion last year, Xi Jinping said that young people must study science, believe in science and develop a ‘correct’ worldview and set of values. 

It could be that the government is concerned that young people going to church or religious activities may challenge their monopoly on truth and the government’s ability to instill its own historical narratives and worldview through the public education system. 

‘In this speech, President Xi Jinping also re-emphasized the need for Communist Party cadres to be strict Marxist atheists, and not to find values or beliefs in religion. As a result, we’ve seen more cadres and government employees punished and fired government for attending religious activities.’ 

In 2014, there was a public outcry in China’s Zhejiang province after churches were ordered to remove their crosses with some churches demolished. 

Within seven months, three churches were demolished and over 360 crosses including those from Catholic churches were taken down. 

Officials used the excuse of the crosses being too large and not according with government guidelines. 

Image: Chinese worshippers sing hymns during the Christmas Eve mass in Beijing.  Courtesy of Getty Images via The Daily Mail.

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