Christians in the rural areas of China have become a major target as Chinese authorities intensify the ongoing crackdown on Christian gatherings often known as house churches. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is reportedly resorting to offering monetary rewards to anyone who spies on a neighbor or even family member and reports a group of believers to authorities.
In documents obtained by Bitter Winter magazine, monetary incentives are spelled out based on the specific report and its impact. For example, a document issued by a subdistrict in Nanyang city in China’s Henan province states that anyone who discovers and reports a group will receive a reward of 200 to 1,000 RMB (about $30 to $150).
Reporting someone for making or spreading images earns a reward of $75 to to $300. And if the report has significant impact, the reward is $750 to $1,500. Turning in a believer from The Church of Almighty God (the largest Chinese new religious movement) brings $15 to $300.
The impact of these new practices has already been felt. Bitter magazine reported that one local believer said that by setting up reporting boxes, authorities have restricted religious events, gatherings, and evangelism, and “have placed believers in danger of being arrested at any time.”
Recently, a secret Three-Self church meeting in Dapan village in Henan was discovered and shut down, surprising believers who were meeting in a basement in a residential building. The venue’s furnishings were cleared out.
To make it easy to tip off authorities and report believers, China has set up reporting boxes in villages, phone lines and websites. A village officer revealed that when a caller reports a gathering, the caller’s location will be recorded right away and the meeting venue’s address can be quickly determined,
The number to the free tip hotline is printed on iron reporting boxes that read “Box for reporting private (meeting) venues and missionary activities.”
A reporting box was recently installed at the entrance to the village committee of Chenzhuang village in the Mangzhongqiao township (several villages constitute a township) in China’s Henan province (where the country’s underground church movement started).
One local villager noted that the the township government has issued a reporting box to each village. “Authorities are waging a crackdown against religious belief,” the villager said, and “people in the village are prohibited from believing in God.”
Some regions have also developed platforms for reporting on neighbors online or by writing letters.
China ranks number 27 in Open Door’s list of top 50 countries where it is most deadly to be a christian.