China is creating a “blueprint” “system of persecution for the future” that could be sold to persecute people across the globe, head of the prominent Christian persecution watchdog agency Open Doors USA has warned.
Open Doors CEO David Curry, joined by pastors from China, issued the dire warning about how China could be shaping the future of international religious minority oppression through its use of surveillance technologies to monitor Christians and other religious adherents.
Open Doors, which operates in 60 countries, released its influential annual World Watch List data report Wednesday at an event attended by representatives of the Trump administration, Congress and human rights activists. The annual report ranks the top 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted.
During a briefing, Curry warned that the “greatest threat,” in his opinion, to human rights worldwide is China, which rose in the rankings from No. 27 to No. 23 in the 2020 report.
Although the communist nation is not ranked as highly as other violators on the list, Curry stressed that the implications lie in China’s development of surveillance to control its people.
“Its implications are not just for Christians within China but for every country and for religious freedom generally,” Curry said. “Let me put it together. It is like a puzzle. The pieces are there but it is not until you put it together that you see it clearly. When you see it clearly, it is frightening.”
The pieces of this puzzle, Curry said, involve China’s use of a social score system that grades its citizens based on their actions and the government’s creation of a network of surveillance cameras that have been put on street corners and in churches.
“Imagine a system where citizens are given 2,000 points and every time you do something the government disagrees with, you are marked down for it,” Curry detailed. “Eventually, your travel is restricted, your children won’t get into the best schools. You lose points for taking your children to Sunday School. That is what the experience is like for many Christians in China.”
Curry traveled to China just a few weeks ago.
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“I saw with my own eyes the surveillance on the street but also in the churches, watching their congregation,” he said. “Facial scans when you come in and then tracking you and generating reports [with] assumptions built into their artificial intelligence system that is tracking Christian behavior.”
Curry said that the more often a person is seen going to church, the more often they are to be labeled a “radical.”
“They are shutting down house churches at a massive rate — 5,596 churches shut down, many because they refuse to put surveillance cameras up to watch their congregation.”
Pastor Jian Zhu, who was raised in China but now is the director of the China Institute at Lincoln Christian University in Illinois, told those in attendance that China’s persecution against house churches is now the worst he has seen since 1979.
“The Chinese government now has placed severe restrictions and policies on the house churches, asking neighbors to spy on one another, pressures school teachers and college professors to betray and sign a statement to denounce their faith as well as to do the same to the students,” Zhu said.
Zhu explained that many churches are asked to take down crosses inside and outside their buildings and put up pictures of President Xi Jinping at the center of their worship stages. Underground churches are also accused of illegally fundraising because they collect offerings from congregants.
Zhu said he has heard of cases where some cities have shut down all house churches.
China ranks 23th on persecution watchdog Open Door’s list of top 50 countries where it is most deadly to be a christian.