Christian children in China are being lured away from churches by a government scheme aimed at stopping them from taking part in Sunday services with other believers.
According to Texas-based watchdog China Aid, authorities in Zhejiang province have begun setting up community cultural centres and holding child-friendly activities at weekends to attract young people, "thus eliminating the problem of them attending church".
The scheme has so far been established in Yangy, Tengqiao, Shanfu and other towns.
Zhejiang has been the centre of a government campaign to crack down on churches and up to 1,700 churches have been demolished or had their crosses removed in the province over the past three years.
However, China Aid reports that the latest restrictions on religious activities are being implemented by local authorities across the country.
The Lucheng district of Wenzhou – known as the 'Jerusalem of the East' because of its large Christian population – is to "build a grid system to regulate religious affairs", China Aid said.
Each village will be monitored via the system, which will involve 1,500 officers from the religious affairs bureau.
Churches will also be forced to conform to strict government regulations called the 'Five Entries and Five Transformations movement'.
Beijing has become progressively more suspicious of the influence of Christianity in China, and will next year implement new Regulations on Religious Affairs.
These will forbid "organising religious activities in unapproved religious sites" and "preaching, organising religious activities, and establishing religious institutions or religious sites at schools".
The new rules have been drafted by the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) and will – according to an expert who spoke to ChinaSource – "in effect leave no space for the house or unregistered Church in China, and will significantly curtail many of the activities of the TSPM [Three-Self-Patriotic Movement, the state-controlled Protestant Church] as well".