(Image courtesy Pixabay)

(Image courtesy Pixabay)

Persecution of Christians may have started some 2,000 year ago, but it doesn’t seem to be letting up here in the 21st century.

A major city in China has initiated a new tactic to curb Christian faith in the communist nation, offering citizens $1,500 for information leading to the arrest of foreign clerics.

The South China Morning Post in Hong Kong reported Guangzhou officials have proposed a variety of rewards for information that helps the government control Christianity.

Churches already must register with the government to operate. Independent groups, sometimes known as house churches even though they may include thousands of people, regularly face restrictions and their pastors arrest.

Some of their buildings have been demolished.

Now, Guangzhou has become the first major city in China to offer rewards for turning in people engaged in “illegal religious activities.”

The plan was announced by the city’s ethnic and religious affairs department.

The nation recently ramped up attacks on unregistered Christian organizations, “which despite the restrictions have been flourishing,” the report said.

Other payments are being offered for information leading to the closure of a foreign religious group, and for tips about gatherings and their leaders.

The city’s website claims the move is aimed at activities “that support extremism, endanger national security and disturb the public order.”

“While Guangzhou is the first Chinese metropolis to offer cash rewards to aid a nationwide crackdown on intrusive religious activities, similar schemes have been running elsewhere in the country for some time,” the Morning Post report said. “In the central province of Henan, which is regarded as a religious hotbed, numerous city and county governments have since April last year been offering financial incentives for whistle-blowers, though they are smaller than those on offer in Guangzhou.”

UCANews reported the “encouragement of people to denounce fellow citizens over alleged political transgressions against Communist Party rule was a feature of the oppressive 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.”

“The Cultural Revolution was a sociopolitical movement based on class struggle to defend communism by encouraging loyalists to inform on, humiliate and harass so-called counter-revolutionaries. The excesses of the period are seen by critics to have undermined the traditional ethics of Chinese culture.”

The U.K.’s Christian Institute said said China aims to bring all religious groups under the thumb of the Communist Party.

“Xu Xiaohong, head of a national committee for government-approved Protestant churches, recently accused the West of trying to use independent churches to subvert the Communist regime,” the institute said.

Xu claimed: “Anti-China western forces seek to upset our country’s social stability or even overthrow our government through Christianity.”

There are an estimated 40 million members of government-controlled churches in China. But the membership of the underground church is thought to be many times that.

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