Over the last century, the world has seen a number of chillingly powerful authoritarian dictatorships rise and fall.
From Nazi Germany to fascist Italy to the USSR and North Korea, we have seen the extent to which those in power of these repressive regimes work to undermine any philosophy that might challenge its professed right to rule.
While the Chinese Communist Party, which is easily the largest and most powerful modern-day authoritarian government, has taken a softer approach towards limiting the exercise of religious freedom, it hides its repression behind a veneer of a commitment to protecting “human rights.”
Here’s the thing — while religious practice is allowed in the CCP’s China, they heavily restrict how, when, and by whom it can be done.
Now, common to previous authoritarian regimes that have gone before and China’s own history of socially enforced oppression, some localities are offering cash rewards to citizens who betray their neighbor’s illegal religious activities.
Chillingly, they in part profess to be merely interested in preventing the spread of COVID-19, which originated in China in late 2019.
China Christian Daily reports:
Recently, a local authority in northeastern China announced financial rewards to people who report “illegal religious activities”.
The Meilisi Daur District United Front Work Department of Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province, released “The Reward System For Reporting Illegal Religious Activities Offences” on Monday, saying that informants could be paid up to 1,000 yuan (US$150) for tips about illicit foreign infiltration.
Under the new reward scheme in Qiqihar, whistle-blowers can earn from 500 to 1,000 yuan for reports about unqualified religious personnel, unauthorized trans-regional activities, preaching and distributing printed religious works, audio-visual products outside places of worship, unauthorized donations, or private house gatherings, according to the statement.
Citizens may issue their reports by phone, email, or written letter.
The district’s aim is to “strengthen the control of illegal religious activities in the district, prevent any COVID-19 cluster resulting from religious gatherings, mobilize the public to engage in preventing, suppressing illegal religious activities, and ensure a harmonious and stable religious landscape,” according to the announcement.
The Boshan District in Zibo and Weihai City have since issued their own offers to reward citizens who report their neighbors.
Weihai City also added to their advisory that religious training attended by minors, evangelistic activities for “parenting purposes,” unapproved religious information online, and illegal religious donation campaigns should also be reported.
Over the last year, the CCP has been clamping down on “illegal religious activities,” raiding churches and detaining pastors that have failed to meet state requirements for religious gatherings or been known to criticize the government’s guidelines.
The state-approved Three Selves church, meanwhile, has been extolling the teachings of President Xi Jinping and were encouraged to incorporate aspects of his speech for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP into their sermons and Bible studies.
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