Churchgoers in China forced to have fingerprints scanned as state increases surveillance

Christians in China have reported an increase in persecution and harassment under the presidency of Xi Jinping.(Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter)

Face and fingerprint scanning technology is reportedly being implemented in churches in China as the state continues its crackdown on religious minorities.

Bitter Winter reports that facial recognition technology was installed at an official church in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. 

On October 6, two biometric devices were set up on the second floor of the Muyang Church in Huangshi city, Hubei, central China.  Since the installation of the devices, members of the congregation have had to wait in line to have their faces and fingerprints scanned before being allowed to enter the church, Bitter Winter reports. 

Also last month, facial recognition was installed in another state-run church in Huangshi city to monitor who is attending the services.

One local Christian told the website that local authorities are requiring the fingerprints of churchgoers to be taken at every meeting of the offical Three-Self churches in the city. 

The fingerprints are then added to the individual's personal and family files held by the authorities.  The unnamed source expressed concern over the directive because of the implications for wider family members. 

One churchgoer in Nanzhulin, Huangshi, said that their Three-Self church was instructed to take the fingerprints of members of the congregation in September. 

"Just like employees punch in at work," they explained. "In this way, the church can know clearly who attends the services and who doesn't."

The increased surveillance is reported to be part of a monitoring programme called the Sharp Eyes Project aimed at achieving "blind-spot-free monitoring" by the year 2020, "covering all regions, sharing across all networks, available at all times, and controlled at all points," Bitter Winter reports.