House churches in a part of Hangzhou, the capital of China’s Zhejiang province, have been told to close down when the city hosts China’s first-ever G20 summit, reports The Guardian.

The coastal province, known as the ‘Jerusalem’ of the east as many of China’s estimated 70-80 million Christians are there, is where Communist government officials have pulled down over 1,200 crosses from churches since 2013.

Now the authorities have reportedly outlawed large-scale religious activity in the local area until four days after the 4-5 September event to “create a safe environment for the meeting”.

Zhang Mingxuan, president of China’s House Church Alliance, said of the authorities: “They have been forcing house churches not to meet ahead of the G20 summit”.

Li Guisheng, a Christian human rights lawyer, criticised the move and said it had no basis in Chinese law: “I cannot understand why they have done this… Worshipping God has nothing to do with the G20 summit.”

On Friday, a UK Foreign Office report on the deteriorating human rights situation in China highlighted the plight of the Christian community.

The report pointed to the destruction of a large number of churches, the disappearance of Catholic priests and the detention of Protestant pastors and their parishioners.

Chinese house churches are facing a period of “sustained pressure” from Beijing, the UK Foreign Office said.