In Wenzhou city – also dubbed “China’s Jerusalem” – teams of three government officials will now monitor the activities of religious groups by keeping their meeting-places under observation, International Christian Concern (ICC) reports.
Alongside other requirements, the groups must align their teachings with the agenda of the government. The teams will also check if religious activities are taking place in the stated locations, whether those activities are run by foreigners and whether they were pre-approved according to the law. Each team will be responsible for a specific religious venue.
In light of the large Christian population in Wenzhou, churches are expected to be a significant target of the new measure. In a recent incident on 11 October, a cross was torn down from a local Catholic church whose leader is recognised by the Vatican but not by the government. Throughout this year the Vatican and Chinese government have been engaged in a dispute over the appointment of bishops. A joint agreement was signed last month, but the debate rages on, with a Chinese religious affairs official claiming earlier this month that some Catholics had “lost their minds”.
The Chinese government has also developed a five-year plan to align Christianity with socialism, which will entail a new interpretation of the Bible, according to ICC. It has been approved by China’s two state-sanctioned Christian organisations: the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and China Christian Council.