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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #17

CHINA

Country rank

17

Persecution score

74.08

Last year’s rank

23

Region

Asia

Persecution Type

Communist and post-Communist oppression (Very strong), Dictatorial paranoia (Strong)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

1,424,548,000

Christians

96,700,000 (OD estimate%)  According to OD-estimate

Main Religion

 

Government

Communist Party-led State

Leader

President Xi Jinping

 

Open Doors supports the persecuted church in China through:

• Biblical and discipleship training to Muslim and Tibetan background believers
• Christian literature distribution to Muslim and Tibetan background believers
• Persecution preparedness, discipleship, and stewardship seminars

ABOUT CHINA

 What does persecution look like in China?

The church in China continues to enjoy strong growth; however, life for Christians is anything but straightforward. 

The policy of “Sinicizing” the church is implemented across the country, as the Communist Party relies strongly on Chinese cultural identity to stay in power and limits whatever it perceives as a threat to its control on society. 
New restrictions on the internet, social media and non-governmental organizations, and 2018 regulations on religion are strictly applied and seriously limit freedom. Churches are being monitored and closed down, whether they are independent or part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. 
And it’s not just the introduction of new laws that impinge on Christian activity, it’s also the stricter implementation of already existing laws, such as the ban on the online sale of Bibles.
On a more local level, if a convert from Islam or Buddhism is discovered by their community and family, they are likely to face threats and physical harm – all in an effort to win them back. Spouses may be forced to divorce. Neighbors and the community may even report the practice of Christian activities to the authorities, who could take action to stop them. 

How women experience persecution

Christian leaders are a target in China. Since many churches, especially house-churches, are led by women, both men and women are similarly affected by persecution. If arrested, Christian women are sometimes raped while in prison. 

There are cases of women leaving children in China and escaping abroad alone. By staying in China, they would be imprisoned and separated from the children anyway, so fleeing abroad is deemed a better solution. 

Female converts from Islam or Buddhism can lose custody of their children and the right to inherit. They could also face strong pressure to divorce. 

How men experience persecution

Taking a church leadership role puts men in a highly vulnerable position. They can face physical abuse at the hands of police officers. Many serve as the main breadwinner for families, so arrest or loss of job can lead to financial strain.

For many, being held in custody for weeks or months and being harshly treated results in physical trauma. In some cases, it is impossible for them to go back to work. In extreme cases – for both women and men – special treatment is required.  

What has changed this year?

The intense pressure being increasingly placed on Christians by the government means China has jumped six places from last year’s list. In just three years, the country has risen 26 places, reflecting a rapidly deteriorating situation for Christians in the country. 
It is getting increasingly difficult to avoid having to fall in line with official ideology, even for state-affiliated churches. Many churches suffering from the state’s tight control reorganized themselves and split into smaller groups – a tactic that didn’t always save them from intrusion. There are reports that in some regions authorities used the COVID-19 pandemic to keep churches closed, even after it was no longer necessary for health reasons. 
There has also been an increase in raids and harassment on individual Christians and families. Thousands of churches have been damaged or destroyed, some confiscated, in a campaign that has spread to almost every region of the country. Crosses have also been removed from churches. Meanwhile, laws on regulating religion, which were introduced in February 2018 and enhanced in February 2020, continue to be more strictly implemented and rolled out in an increasing number of provinces.
There are reports that citizens are being financially rewarded for disclosing information on Christians and other minorities to the authorities. This reflects the determination of the Communist Party to exert its control over all areas of life. 
It must be remembered that China is vast, and the situation for Christians can be very different in various parts of the country. However, the situation for Christians deteriorated all over the country.  

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Converts from Muslim or Buddhist backgrounds arguably face the strongest persecution in China. This is driven by families and local communities. 
Protestant Christians are more concentrated in the provinces of Henan and Zhejiang, and Catholic Christians are high in number in Hebei. These could all be considered hotspots. However, Christians face restrictions and monitoring all over China, with incidents reported in all almost all provinces.  

How can I help Christians in China?

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in China?

Open Doors supports persecuted believers in China through discipleship and persecution survival training, and by providing contextualized Christian literature to believers from Muslim and Buddhist backgrounds.  

Pray

– Ask the Lord to give church leaders wisdom, discernment and guidance as they lead congregations in light of increased restrictions and surveillance.
– Lift up in prayer all who have left their former religion to follow Jesus. Pray that they will be protected from harm, strengthened in their faith and empowered in their witness.
– Ask the Lord to open the eyes of those in authority to the unequalled power and beauty of the gospel.
 

A PRAYER FOR CHINA

Heavenly Father, we are astounded at the remarkable growth of the church in China, despite years of opposition and hostility. We praise You for the power of the gospel. Fill believers with wisdom, discernment and courage as they seek to serve You in an increasingly monitored environment. Empower their witness and continue to build Your church. Strengthen and sustain Your children through all challenges. Amen.  

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in China, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.