China

World Watch ranking: 19
Map thumbnail
Leader
President Xi Jinping

How many Christians?
96.7 million (6.8%)

Main threat
  • Communist and post-Communist oppression

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How many Christians are there in China?

There are around 96.7 million Christians in China – a huge number, but less than seven per cent of China’s total population of around 1.5 billion.

How are Christians persecuted in China?

The most overt persecution in China often takes place in regions where Buddhism or Islam are the majority religions. Anyone who converts to Christianity is seen as a traitor to their ethnicity and family. These believers may be threatened or even harmed, all in an attempt to convince them to return to the family's religion. 

However, persecution and discrimination are slowly spreading throughout most of China. The Chinese Communist Party's goal is to make sure churches don't fall out of line with official viewpoints. In the case of official churches, this means they are encouraged to praise and pledge allegiance to the Communist Party and its ideology. Churches that claim Christ as King are viewed with suspicion, especially since Christianity is seen as a primarily Western influence. It's always been true that house churches exist in a legal grey area, where they are unregistered and technically not allowed, but largely tolerated. New regulations continue to chip away at this status quo. Children under 18 continue to be forbidden from attending church. Most churches are monitored and can be shut down without warning. 

Digital persecution also impacts the church in China. Restrictions passed in 2018 as part of a wide-ranging law on religion have made it harder for Christians to use the internet or social media to pursue their faith. The government's growing authoritarianism means that every Chinese citizen can be sure that none of their digital footprint is out of the state's view. Christian chat groups are routinely shut down, and the government's sophisticated surveillance system has been rolled out to target minority groups in some regions. Observers fear this technology will increasingly be used to target Christians, especially those in house churches. 

Meet ‘Qiang’ 

“We’re feeling nervous, fearful and worried.” qiang was detained after his house church was raided and closed

What’s life like for Christians in China?

Qiang* and his wife ran a house church serving people from the Han Chinese ethnic majority group. One day, their church was raided and accused of ‘hosting gatherings illegally’. All leaders and church workers, including Qiang and his wife, were taken away by the local authorities – they were interrogated and fined 20,000 yuan (around £2,200) and detained for five days. The church leader was fined 300,000 yuan (£33,350) and, at the time of writing, is still in detention since he cannot raise this large amount.

Qiang and his wife escaped to another province and are still wanted by the Chinese authorities. If they are caught, they will need to settle the fine and, more alarmingly, believe they might face higher form of punishment. Currently, the local authorities still go to their house to put up the notice asking for the fine on their door. They then go after their family members by threatening them to disclose their whereabouts.

“Looking back, to be honest, we’re feeling nervous, fearful, and worried, as it’s our first time to encounter this,” Qiang says. “Are we being blacklisted – will our travels be restricted? We have no answer to it now. But we are grateful that, after this incident, our brothers and sisters never cease praying for one another and lift each other up with words of encouragement.”

Li*, an Open Doors local partner, adds, “Even though they experienced this, they have not mentioned a word to me about giving up on Christ. Now they are in a new province and participate in the ethnic minority work even more passionately.”

*Name changed for security reasons

Is it getting easier to be a Christian in China?

While China fell three places on the World Watch List, the persecution score actually rose by one point. The reason that it fell is because persecution increased in other countries on the World Watch List.

Over the last five years, the situation in China has slowly and steadily deteriorated, and the past 12 months was no exception. While violence against believers remained rare, church closures and raids continue to happen, with pressure across all parts of life steadily rising. This year, the government passed regulations requiring churches in one region to post signs that read, ‘Love the Communist Party; Love the country; Love the religion’. While this law only impacts state-sanctioned churches and implementation seems uneven, house church leaders are increasingly worried about crackdowns. In one province, citizens were required to use a state-controlled smartphone app to register before they attended religious services. And the ongoing digital pressure continues to increase as China exerts its control over citizens' lives. 

How can I help Christians in China?

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in China. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.

Through local partners and churches, Open Doors supports believers in China with discipleship and persecution survival training, helping serve the younger generation of believers, and by providing contextualised Christian literature to believers who have converted from Islam or Buddhism.

please pray

Father God, we ask that You would be with and bless Your people in China. As the pressure grows, we ask that You would give them a sense of rest and peace; that they would know You are with them. Please help young believers find a way to learn more about You, and for their parents to know how to wisely train their children and share the gospel. We lift up church leaders who are targeted, that they will have courage and wisdom as they care for their congregations. We pray also for believers who have converted from the faith of their family or ethnic group – please help them know they aren't alone. Amen. 

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