Authorities make holding summer youth camps like this one held in 2008, increasingly difficult. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Young people playing at a Christian summer camp in 2008. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

China has closed several Christian summer camps for children and dismissed two priests for holding a camp, reports Catholic news agency UCAN.

The two priests belonged to one of the only two unregistered Catholic churches in Tianshui diocese, in China’s northwest Gansu province.

After their dismissal, the Tianshui Municipal Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee asked the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to send replacements, “to strengthen the management of religious affairs in accordance with the law and according to the regulations on religious affairs”.

“There are people in the government who want to break the current situation. They do not allow the ‘underground’ Church to exist and must convert it to be open because only Tianshui in northwest China still has an ‘underground’ community,” a source told UCAN.

Meanwhile 80 children aged 10-14 were sent home on 21 July after authorities closed the camp they were attending at a pastoral centre in the Shuangshu parish of Wuqing district, in the northern city of Tianjin.

A second camp for older children that was due to take place was also shut down, with officials saying the order was in line with the new revised religious regulations that came into force in February, reported UCAN.

Summer camps are still taking place in other parts of the country. “In some areas, with more faithful, the Church still can go on quietly,” one Catholic told UCAN. “As long as the event is neither reported nor publicised, local officials will turn a blind eye.”

Under President Xi Jinping, China’s government has sought to increase control over religious affairs.

Last summer World Watch Monitor reported how, in several provinces, children were banned from attending Christian camps over the summer holidays, while notices were issued in other provinces banning all school children, and their teachers, from going to church.