ROME — The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has begun requiring Christians to register on a government app to attend worship services in the Henan province, ChinaAid reports.
To attend church services, Christians must fill out an online form on the government’s so-called “Smart Religion” app and receive official approval to worship, ChinaAid, a U.S.-based Christian charity, reports.
Applicants must provide personal information, including their name, phone number, government ID number, permanent residence, occupation, and date of birth before they can make a reservation to worship. A separate reservation must be made each time a person wishes to go to church, so the government can also monitor the frequency of worship.
Before entering church, the faithful are required to have their temperature taken — likely related to coronavirus monitoring — and show their reservation 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 the government of President Xi Jinping.
The Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Henan Province developed the “Smart Religion” app as part of the CCP’s efforts to “strictly manage religion in a comprehensive way,” ChinaAid said, in part by gathering data about religious believers.
“These management measures did not stem from the intention to protect the religious rights of religious people but rather are mediums to accomplish political purposes,” it said.
ChinaAid noted that the introduction of barriers to worship has reduced the number of believers attending churches, a phenomenon that has especially affected elderly believers who are less tech-savvy.
Along with the contact data acquired from the Smart Religion app, the CCP has also intensified video surveillance of religious venues to “improve religious affairs management,” ChinaAid said.
In 2020, commissioners of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) noted that the CCP had created “an Orwellian surveillance state with an unprecedented ability to gather private information about its citizens,” which it has begun using to target Christians and other religious believers.
In a virtual hearing Wednesday on “the Chinese government’s use of surveillance and data analytic technology to oppress religious groups,” the independent, non-partisan USCIRF observed that the CCP had “installed hundreds of millions of surveillance cameras across the country, using facial and voice recognition systems to distinguish and track Uyghurs and Tibetans.”
“In addition, authorities have systematically installed cameras in churches to identify and target anyone who attends services,” it noted.
“Throughout the country, Chinese authorities have raided underground house churches, arrested Christians who refuse to join the state-run churches, and banned children younger than 18 years old from attending services,” the Commission’s chairperson, Gayle Manchin, declared.
Manchin added that “the Communist Party is deliberately using technology to undermine religious freedom and other fundamental rights.”
Vice Chairman Tony Perkins observed that the CCP uses artificial intelligence systems combining information from video surveillance, facial and voice recognition, GPS tracking, and other data “in order to track certain religious communities.”
“Authorities even installed cameras on the pulpits of churches and other houses of worship, allowing the Party to identify and monitor anyone who attends services,” Perkins said.
Thomas D. Williams is Breitbart Rome Bureau Chief and the author of The Coming Christian Persecution.