Christian pastors and religious leaders are going into hiding as China’s surveillance and persecution against Christians increase.

According to the group Asia Harvest, China has taken unprecedented action in recent times to “control the Church and ultimately render it powerless and subservient to the communist system.” 

“The government has openly announced plans to ‘reinterpret’ the Bible and other religious texts, so they will have ‘socialist characteristics,” they write.

In recent years, the Chinese government has undertaken efforts to “sinicize” Christianity in the country. Under the guise of removing Western influence, Christian symbols have been expunged from buildings and religious material has been censored.

Pastors in China must be registered with a state-owned church in order to operate in China. In the last year, many religious leaders have been ordered to incorporate communist doctrine into their sermons.

Asia Harvest decries the increased use of surveillance to find and punish Christians in Chinese society. Changes to identification in China allow for the state to spy on all aspects of life.

“Each person in China must have an ID card. It is impossible for a person to catch a flight or train, open a bank account, get a job, or rent an apartment without using their card. Each ID card contains a computer chip which is also used to track people’s movements,” they say.

In their 2020 report, Open Doors USA noted the increased persecutions in China as their biggest cause for concern. Under new “social credit” systems, the Chinese government will be able to monitor and punish anyone who shows signs of dissent.

“The reality that the government keeps tabs on them, making sure they don’t get out of line. Making sure that Jesus doesn’t ever conflict with the wishes of the state,” the report says.