Cross on Dongguang Church in Shenyang, north-eastern China

The Chinese government is forcing churches in Zhejiang province to install CCTV reports UCA News.

The Communist Party in the heavily Christian province on China’s east coast wants Catholic and Protestant churches to install CCTV cameras inside and outside their buildings, in a bid to control the number of Christians and “maintain social order”. Zhejiang is home to two million Protestants and 210,000 Catholics.

‘Underground’ priest Father Francis said that all his parishes had received installation notices: “Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin, an ‘underground’ bishop who is not recognized by the government, felt helpless to resist the demand. As for the faithful, some feel angry but some are ignorant, not knowing or caring about the issue.”

One layman reported that a camera was installed inside a church before being removed by church members before the funeral of a Bishop. The authorities then installed cameras outside the church.

Religious policy in China has tightened since President Xi Jinping became leader in 2012, and Zhejiang province has seen attempts to curb Christian activity, including the removal of more than 1,500 crosses from church buildings.

Priests circulated a message encouraging church members to negotiate with officials but advised them to act with wisdom. The message said, “everyone’s consensus is that no camera should be installed inside a church hall,” but added that a single camera installed on top of a church wall or fence, while not ideal, may be the best way to break the impasse.

Dr. Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, Director of Strategic Research for Open Doors, which works with Christians under pressure globally, commented, “Xi Jinping has succeeded in extending control right down to the locality, not just at the highest level. This is a big shift. For the ‘underground’ church, the implementation of CCTV will either force groups to find new places to meet, or it will discourage them from attending.”