China requires Christians to register on app to attend church services

ROME — The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has begun requiring Christians to register on a government app to attend worship services in Henan province, ChinaAid reports.

To attend religious services, Christians must complete an online form on the government’s so-called “Smart Religion” app and receive official approval to worship, reports ChinaAid, a US-based Christian charity.

Applicants must provide personal information including name, phone number, government ID number, permanent residence, occupation and date of birth before they can make a worship reservation. A separate reservation must be made each time a person wishes to attend church, so that the government can also monitor the frequency of services.

Before entering the church, worshipers must have their temperature taken – likely linked to coronavirus monitoring – and show their booking code.

The new requirement also affects believers of other faiths, including Muslims and Buddhists, as part of an ongoing tightening of control over religious practice by President Xi Jinping’s government.

Henan Province’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission developed the “Smart Religion” app as part of the CCP’s efforts to “strictly manage religion comprehensively”, ChinaAid said, in part by collecting data on the believers.

“These management measures do not arise from the intention to protect the religious rights of religious people, but rather are means to accomplish political goals,” he said.

ChinaAid noted that the introduction of barriers to worship has reduced the number of believers attending churches, a phenomenon that has particularly affected older believers who are less tech-savvy.

Along with contact data acquired from the Smart Religion app, the CCP has also stepped up video surveillance of religious places to “improve the management of religious affairs”, ChinaAid said.

In 2020, commissioners of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) noted that the CCP had created “an Orwellian surveillance state with an unprecedented ability to collect private information about its citizens”, which it began to use to target Christians and other religions. believers.

During a virtual hearing Wednesday on “the Chinese government’s use of surveillance and data-analytics technology to oppress religious groups,” the independent, nonpartisan USCIRF observed that the CCP had “installed hundreds of millions of surveillance cameras across the country, using face cameras and voice recognition systems to distinguish and track Uyghurs and Tibetans.

“Additionally, authorities have systematically installed cameras in churches to identify and target anyone attending services,” he noted.

“Across the country, Chinese authorities have raided underground churches, arrested Christians who refuse to join public churches and banned children under 18 from attending services,” said the president of the Commission, Gayle Manchin.

Manchin added that “the Communist Party deliberately uses technology to undermine religious freedom and other fundamental rights.”

Vice President Tony Perkins observed that the CCP uses artificial intelligence systems that combine information from CCTV, facial and voice recognition, GPS tracking and other data “to track certain religious communities”.

“Authorities have even installed cameras on pulpits in churches and other places of worship, allowing the Party to identify and monitor anyone who attends services,” Perkins said.

Thomas D. Williams is the Breitbart Rome bureau chief and author of The Coming Christian Persecution.

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