Group of Chinese students on Tiananmen Square, in front of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
A group of Chinese students in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Municipal authorities in a city in China’s northern Hebei province have been given directions on how to handle students and teachers who express their religious beliefs, reports religious-liberty magazine Bitter Winter.

Foreign teachers and students are not allowed to preach or promote religion, and local students are prohibited from speaking with others about their religion or including them in religious activities, according to an internal document seen by the magazine.

Meanwhile, in Shandong province, eastern China, students have reportedly been told by school authorities to renounce their faith. One student told Bitter Winter she was informed that if she held on to her Christian faith, she would not receive her diploma. Another student studying at a medical university said she had been questioned about, and put under pressure to give up, her faith and that she might be called in to have an “ideological conversation” some time soon.

Christian student groups are also targeted by the new regulations, said Bitter Winter.

“Authorities recently shut down a meeting place for student believers at a nearby vocational school in Zibo city’s Zhoucun district” and students at the Haidu College of the Qingdao Agricultural University in Shandong were warned to stop attending meetings of the college’s Christian fellowship, the news site reported.

In October World Watch Monitor reported how school children in two high schools in Zhejiang province had been asked to fill out a form affirming that they did not follow a religion.

Pressure on China’s Christians has been building since the introduction of new religious regulations in February, which included banning anyone under 18 from attending church or receiving any religious education.

Hundreds of church leaders signed a public letter in August, calling on the government to stop its “violent actions” against Christians, including forcing churches to join religious organisations controlled by the government.

In recent weeks a number of unregistered churches in southwestern Sichuan province have been pressured to join the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement, according to the US-based advocacy group ChinaAid.

“A few … pastors … received the government’s final warning, requiring that they should make a decision within two weeks: either join Three-Self churches or be disbanded,” a local Christian told the advocacy group.

The Sichuan Provincial Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee said on its website it had trained more than 100 officials to help with “law enforcement” in controlling churches in the province, ChinaAid said.