There is concern about tracking and persecution in China’s Henan province, where a phone app must be used by worshippers in order to attend church.
According to the persecution watchdog ChinaAid, the so-called Smart Religion app is being rolled out by the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Henan Province.
As well as collecting data, the cumbersome application process to attend church has left elderly citizens isolated and some observers say it has reduced church attendance.
According to ChinaAid, Christians must give personal information before they can make a reservation to attend church in parts of Henan. To be allowed into the church they must also have their temperature taken and show a reservation code.
There are concerns it is a tracking and control exercise under the guise of COVID safety. There has been no legal justification for the measure.
China is ranked 16th on the list of nations involved in Christian persecution, according to the 2023 Open Doors World Watch List.
- For believers in Henan Province, especially the elderly
- For parents in Zhejiang Province, that they may remain strong in faith and be protected from persecution
- For all Chinese Christians amid a possible country-wide crackdown on churches
ChinaAid has also reported a crackdown on Christians in Zhejiang Province, where kindergarten parents are asked to sign a “Pledge Form of Commitment for Family Not To Hold Religious Beliefs”.
A preschool teacher in Wenzhou City anonymously confirmed the mandate, which has been circulated to several kindergartens, forbidding families from expressing or teaching religious beliefs to their children.
Wenzhou is an area of significant Christian activity and it is where, in 2014, the Chinese government implemented a two-year campaign to remove crosses from churches and other buildings. They later banned minors from entering churches.
At a national level, the State Administration of Religious Affairs is also preparing further measures to strengthen control of religious venues across the country.
Main photo: Adapted from orginal by Marco Verch