The number of Christians in China is growing so quickly that it could reach 300 million by 2030, says Dr. Ron Boyd-MacMillan. He believes the rapid growth of the church in China is why the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is targeting believers so aggressively.
“We think the evidence as to why the Chinese Church is so targeted, is that the leaders are scared of the size of the Church, and the growth of the Church,” said Boyd-MacMillan, who oversees global strategy and research for Open Doors International. Speaking to the Daily Express on Jan. 24, Boyd-MacMillan said, “And if it grows, at the rate that it has done, since 1980 and that’s about between seven and eight percent a year, then you’re looking at a group of people that will be 300 million strong, nearly by 2030. And, you know, the Chinese leadership, they really do long-term planning, I mean, their economic plan goes to 2049, so this bothers them.”
Christians in China are currently estimated to number 97 million; the current population of China is around 1.4 billion.
Christians in China Face Serious Persecution
Open Doors is a non-profit that supports persecuted Christians in over 60 countries throughout the world. Every year, the organization releases its World Watch List, which ranks the top 50 countries where Christians face the most severe persecution. In a press conference about the 2020 World Watch List, Open Doors president and CEO David Curry said that China is “the greatest threat, in my opinion, to human rights today.” Prior to the pandemic, Chinese authorities were tracking the biometric data of church attendees, as well as developing a way of giving everyone in the country a social score based on how well they comply with the government.
Those are among the many actions that the CCP has taken over the past several years that have been at best troubling and at worst flagrant abuses of human rights. Another is the CCP’s campaign to “sinicize” any aspect of society leaders perceive not to be “Chinese” enough. For example, party leaders have banned Christian funerals, forced pastors to undergo government training, and eliminated references to “God” and the “Bible” in Chinese textbooks.
The CCP has compelled hundreds of churches, even those that are part of the state-approved Three-Self Church, to remove crosses and religious imagery. The party has threatened to deny individuals their welfare benefits if they refuse to replace the Christian imagery in their homes with pictures of Chairman Mao Zedong and President Xi Jinping. And there have been reports that the CCP is financially rewarding people who turn in neighbors who practice “illegal religious activities.”
As churches have moved online because of the pandemic, the government has been monitoring online church services and Bible studies, at times shutting down the meetings and fining people for holding them.
Over the past several years, Chinese officials have severely targeted Christians in China who attend house churches. Authorities conducted a raid on Early Rain Covenant Church in December 2018, arresting around 100 members at the time. Many church members have since been released, but continue to be surveilled and harassed. The church’s pastor, Wang Yi, has been sentenced to nine years in prison. One of the church’s elders, Qin Derfu, has been sentenced to four years in prison.
It is not just Christians who face persecution in China, but all ethnic and religious minorities. Some of the most egregious human rights violations are being perpetrated against the Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim population living in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The CCP has been using facial recognition technology to monitor people’s identities in the region, and the Chinese government has reportedly detained anywhere from one to three million Uyghurs in “re-education” camps for offenses that include having “extremist thoughts.” Ugyhur women, including a Uyghur obstetrician now living in Turkey, report that the CCP is controlling the growth of the Uyghur population through harsh sterilization methods, forced abortions, and infanticide.
On Jan. 19, the Trump administration released a statement calling the CCP’s actions against the Ugyhurs “genocide” and “crimes against humanity.” While Biden has said he agrees that the Chinese government’s behavior towards the Uyghurs is in fact genocide, his administration has removed the Trump administration’s Jan. 19 statement. It is not yet clear what the new administration’s posture toward China will be.