A government-approved church in Henan, part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. (World Watch Monitor)

Local government officials in China’s central Henan province are being encouraged to cultivate “patriotic” clergy for leadership positions in the Catholic Church, according to a document outlining how to implement the new religion regulations.

The guidelines, published in a confidential document titled ‘Supervision and Self-Inspection Framework for Implementing the Central Authorities’, demand the cultivation of “young and middle-aged patriotic Catholic priests … and government-elected and -consecrated bishops, to ‘ensure that patriotic persons hold China’s Catholic leadership’,” according to Bitter Winter, a magazine on religious liberty and human rights in China, which saw a copy of the document.

As World Watch Monitor reported two weeks ago, Chinese Catholics continue to experience harassment despite last month’s agreement between the Vatican and Beijing about governance of the Catholic Church in China.

Bitter Winter also reported about an incident in Fuzhou’s Changle district, in southeastern Fujian province, earlier last month, when an “underground” Catholic church was forced to stop renovation work after government officials threatened them with arrest and a prison sentence if they continued.

The church had started the renovation work as the building urgently needed repairs and they had been unable to obtain the necessary permission, according to the magazine, which added that the congregation has resorted to meeting in another dilapidated building.

Meanwhile, personnel from the United Front Work Department, which since May has become responsible for implementing the religion regulations, reportedly “stormed” into another church in Haiyan, in Fuzhou’s Jin’an district, saying it was “unlicensed and illegal” and ordering the priests and church members to join the official Catholic body.

Officials have since made three more visits to carry out inspections, Bitter Winter reported.

Meanwhile, on 21 October, 20 members of the Early Rain Covenant Church, an unrecognised Protestant church in Chengdu, capital of southwestern Sichuan province, were arrested for preaching in the streets and handing out Christian leaflets, according to AsiaNews.

When released, they were reportedly greeted by hundreds of other church members who had gathered outside the police station.

In May about 200 members of the same church, including the pastor, Wang Yi, were arrested after they tried to host an event – without the necessary permit – to commemorate the 10th anniversary of an earthquake that killed almost 90,000 people and left millions homeless.