CHINA’S President Xi Jinping has been accused of having “particular animosity” against Christians in the country and sees underground churches as a “severe national security threat” as the communist state continues to crack down on how citizens practice the religion, the leader of a Christian persecution group has warned.
The outburst came from China Aid founder Bob Fu, when speaking during a discussion on religious oppression sponsored by the Heritage Foundation in the US, claimed Mr Xi sees the rise of Christianity as a threat to his rule.
There are now more than 38 million Protestants in China but according to Mr Fu, the number of persecuted Christians in the country over the course of just 12 months has “dramatically increased”.
“The number of people we documented who are persecuted among just Christians alone last year reached 223,000 compared to these 48,000 in 2016.”
The China Aid founder said “persecution will only help accelerate the growth” of the faithful, noting that even the number of Christians “who worship at the government churches” has also risen significantly.
Mr Fu said: ”You can see that he [Xi] has particular animosity against Christianity in particular,” acknowledging that the communist regime has identified “underground churches” as a “severe national security threat”.
He added that in efforts to better control religion, Beijing is forcing churches to install facial recognition systems to identify those who attend services.
“Every church is forced to install face recognition systems and every church building … is forced to put a sign [up] banning children, students, civil servants, military personnel, and communist party members from entering.
Mr Xi has cracked down on Christianity and asserted state control over religion, having previously said that “all religions must be Chinese-orientated”.
Last month, Christians were placed under house arrest as the Communist government continued to crack down on churches in an Easter purge.
Authorities imposed an effective ban on Christian gatherings with police requiring Christians to report where they are going every time they leave their home in the Henan province.
During Easter, China removed sales of the Bible from online stores having previously only allowed for the holy book to be distributed and printed by state-sanctioned churches.
Chinese Catholic bishops are not appointed by the Pope, stemming from a breakdown in relations between Beijing and the Vatican in 1951.