A new set of religious laws have Chinese Christians deeply concerned about their future, an American Christian, with long-time connections to China’s underground house church movement reports.
The anonymous source told CBN News that some house church leaders are “praying and fasting” and preparing for “severe persecution, including prison.”
Chinese citizens have until Oct. 7 to voice concerns about 26 new amendments to laws regulating religious life in the world’s most populous nation. The current Regulation for Religious Affairs (RRA) law passed in 2005 has 48 articles.
The new version put before the Chinese public for consultation has 74 articles and covers chapters such as general legal provisions, religious bodies, sites for religious activities, religious personnel, religious property, legal liability, and religious activities.
Experts who monitor religious freedom in China worry the proposed amendments are part of a campaign to further control religious life.
Dr. David Curry, with Open Doors USA, says that while the new amendments “have some common sense religious regulations that could protect the rights of Christians,” he worries about the impact they’ll have on China’s Christian population.
“Many people within China view Christianity and their rapid growth as a threat to national unity,” Curry reports.
In September, the government released a two-page letter explaining why the new amendments were necessary and drew attention to religion as a potential threat to national security.
“Any religious group or religious individual should not use religion to bring threats against national security,” the letter warned.
The government added that “religious institutions or any religious publication should not use the Internet to fuel protest, create national division or terrorist activity.”
China watcher Brent Fulton says officials have long viewed Christianity as a Western tool that undermines and tries to infiltrate China.
“In these new regulations there are things that specifically mention foreign infiltration,” Fulton, with China Source, said. “I think that’s what they are most concerned about–the influence of the West as they see it happening through the church.”