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Registration of religious communities enforced in parts of Henan

HONG KONG (UCAN): The Chinese government has ramped up efforts to tighten control over religions in the Pengyuan district of the populous central province of Henan.
 
On April 4, local authorities posted a notice demanding those who follow the officially listed faiths—Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism—register with the residents’ committee.
 
Authorities in Henan, which has an estimated 300,000 Catholics, have been noticeably tightening their grip since September 2017. It has become the third province to dismantle church crosses after Zhejiang and Jiangxi.
 
A reporter with Chinese media called the residents’ committee and a staff member confirmed the notice, saying that it was just following instructions from its superiors.
 
A Henan-based priest with the unofficial Catholic Church said that the authorities are not only targeting Protestant house churches—those which are not members of the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement—but also those who worship in government-sanctioned churches.
 
What remains unclear is whether these efforts are limited and merely the initiative of local officials, or a test run for a broader campaign across one of China’s most Christian provinces. 
 
One priest from the official Catholic Church community also revealed that church-run Wan Huying nursery in Yanlu parish of Anyang Diocese (Sunday Examiner, April 8) had been ordered to close, while the secretary of the local government said that all nuns in service had been told to leave the school. The diocese has not made new arrangements for them yet.
 
“It happened at the beginning of April and the authorities did not give any compensation,” the priest said.
 
He also said that in Anyang Diocese minors under the age of 18 were not allowed to enter churches which have been guarded by government personnel each Sunday. 
 
Local officials also took away all lighting on the crosses of all churches in the diocese, while even street lights in some parishes were dismantled. “Churches without lights reveal their co-operation with the government,” the priest said.
 
All religious site management personnel and Church property in the diocese must be registered. Those without a venue certificate proving that church buildings or personnel have been registered and approved by the government are banned.
 
Authorities have also organised study groups for Catholics and Protestants to learn the revised regulations on religious affairs that came into effect on February 1. 
 
On March 21, officials of the Rushan County Religious Affairs Bureau of Pingdingshan City convened some 700 preachers from the official Protestant community for a study group.

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