Christians in China will have their welfare benefits withdrawn unless they stop attending church, a local governing body has announced.
Authorities in Guizhou province made the announcement on July 2, China Aid reports. A house church member told the Texas-based organisation that officials said they would withdraw "welfare or any old-age insurance" from Christians.
"Now, the county called on the government in the towns and villages to order believers to sign [a guarantee] stating that if they gathered again, their welfare would be cut off," the source said.
It's not the first time this threat has been carried out in China. Three dozen Miao Christians were detained in September 2014 and have since not received any welfare payments.
The Chinese government has been taking an increasing hard line on religion, particularly against Christianity which is experiencing dramatic growth in the country. More than 1,500 churches have been demolished or had their crosses removed in Zhejiang province over the past three years, and pastors and lawyers who opposed the campaign have been imprisoned on charges widely regarded as concocted by the authorities.
Last month, parents who attended Huaqiu house church in Guizhou were told if they didn't stop bringing their children to church, they would not be allowed to attend college or a military academy.
In addition, anyone who brought a minor to church was warned they would be sued.
Chinese legislation forbids children under the age of 18 from receiving any religious education, and that children may not attend even state-approved churches.