Zhumadian: whistle-blowers get up to 194 dollars to report on ‘illegal’ religious activities
The local Religious Affairs Administration want whistle-blowers to provide "audio-visual materials that can prove the reported facts”. About 10 per cent of China’s Catholic community lives in Henan, home to a strong underground Church. All this is part of Xi Jinping’s “sinicisation” policy of religions.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – In Zhumadian (Henan), the city’s religious affairs bureau has begun offering rewards of 600 to 1,200 yuan (US$ 87 to US$ 194) to whistle-blowers who report "illegal religious activities".
The decision, which is dated 13 March but was made public only recently, is not the first of its kind. In Henan, the authorities did it back in 2019 as did their counterparts in Fujian, Guangxi, Hebei, and Liaoning that same year as well as in Heilongjiang and Shandong in 2021.
The modus operandi is the same: provide financial incentives to residents to report on each other in order to crack down on religious communities unaligned with the Communist Party of China (CPC), and therefore deemed a threat to social stability.
The City of Zhumadian encourages "public participation" to fight illegal acts in the field of religion. Above all, it calls on potential spies to provide "audio-visual materials that can prove the reported facts".
The city’s ordinance does not refer to a particular religion, but 10 per cent of China’s Catholic community lives in Henan. Like in Fujian, the local underground Church, which rejects CPC-controlled religious bodies, is very strong.
This is part of a trend. Recently, provincial authorities began requiring religious believers of all creeds to register in order to attend religious services, whether in churches, mosques or Buddhist temples.
It should be noted that local police have illegally held, without charges or convictions, Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang, for almost two years.
The signing of the Sino-Vatican Agreement on episcopal appointments in 2018, renewed in 2020 and 2022, has not stopped the persecution of prominent Catholics, especially those in the underground Church.
Over the years, AsiaNews has reported stories about crosses destroyed or torn down in Henan, religious inscriptions covered or removed, poor families blackmailed into destroying sacred images in their homes in order to obtain subsidies.
All of this is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping policy of “sinicisation” and increasing oppression of religions, as evinced in this year’s annual session of the National People's Congress earlier this month. But China’s communist regime formally embarked on this process back in 2015.
On 1 June 2022, the "Measures for the financial management of religious sites" came into effect. Three months earlier, the "Administrative measures for religious information services on the internet" were adopted making online religious activities impossible without a permit.
In February 2022, the National Religious Affairs Administration (NRAA)[*] released the "Administrative Measures for Religious Personnel", which includes monks, priests, bishops, etc.
In February 2018, the CPC adopted "New Regulations on Religious Activities," which require religious personnel to perform their duties only if they join “official” organisations and submit to them.
[*] Formerly known as the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA).