There is increased pressure being exerted against Christian churches in China as officials fear that Christianity is finding new appeal among the Chinese, even among Communist Party members, according to the evangelical newsweekly World (Feb. 17).
In recent months there has been a new crackdown on religion in China. Protestant and Catholic leaders have been detained by government officials, “churches have been harassed and new laws have been handed down that promise that the Year of the Rat  will be one of growing church-state conflict,” writes Mindy Belz.
What is different about the recent crackdown is that it is ordered by Beijing’s top officials rather than, as in the past, coming from local police and religious affairs bureaucrats. “More and more, the Chinese leaders recognize Christianity as a powerful rival for the allegiance of young people and a threat to the Communist Party itself,” according to Belz.
Such signs of defection from the Communist Party could be seen in a small area of Guizhou Province that has seen 2,000 conversions of Party members in the past five years. Last year, Beijing Party Secretary Wei Jinxing said the Party faced a crisis because members had lost faith in its ideology and some members had turned to religion as a remedy. Such growth mirrors the wider increase in Chinese society. In the last year, approximately 40-60 new house churches [which flout new laws requiring strict registration of churches] have been formed in Beijing.
In the face of such restrictions, house churches are finding new ways to go about ministry. “The churches are breaking up into smaller and smaller cells, learning to be more sophisticated in training church leaders, and expanding community service work as a means to evangelism,” Belz concludes.
(World, P.O. Box 2330, Asheville, NC 28802)