Christians In China 'Forced' To Sign Up To Communist Party Churches

ReutersChinese President Xi Jinping at a meeting last week at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

Persecution of Christians in China has been stepped up because of a change of government policy under President Xi Jinping, says a new report.

Until relatively recently, under Jiang Zemin, president until 2003, China's leaders followed a policy of trying to adapt religions to the prevailing political system of socialism.

Jinping became president in 2012 and last year the Communist Party changed tack, and began forcefully promoting the 'Sinicisation' of belief, reports the Christian charity China Aid.

Protestant house churches and the underground branches of Catholicism have fallen prey to this so-called 'Sinicisation of religions'.

Muslims are also affected.

House churches are now referred to as "private Christian meeting places", subject since last year to a spate of "special rectification orders". This meant an escalation in the cross demolition programme, although this has eased off more recently.

Evangelical house churches are being coerced to join one of two government-approved Christian bodies, the "Three-Self" church. Any church that refuses to cooperate with the registration process is banned and pastors who do not accept bribes face a ban or even imprisonment.

China has also restricted Muslim hajj pilgrimages. Imams are ordered to include values of "patriotism, peace, the Chinese dream, moderation, morality, and good behaviour" into their sermons.