China Aid’s 2016 Annual Persecution Report details a seismic shift in the Chinese government’s approach to religious policy that is expected to lead to further persecution.

The report’s core subject tracks a deviation in the Chinese government’s ideological approach to religious management. During the National Conference of Religious Work held in April 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized the importance of religions “persistently following the path of Sinicization,” and subordinate government departments adopted the policy as a catalyst for many persecution attempts. Previously, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) focused its efforts on encouraging religions and socialism to mutually adapt, a policy introduced by former President Jiang Zemin.

Despite China’s insistence that Sinicization is an integral ingredient in the harmonization between church and state, the policy pivots on the government’s assumption that other countries are using religions based abroad to undermine its authority. Therefore, actions carried out under this mantra target the activities of religious institutions and subject them to government oversight, effectively forcing them to fit the agenda of the CCP.

This forces religious practitioners, especially Christians, to choose between compromising their deeply-held beliefs and risking being treated as violators of the law.

In an attempt to implement this Sinicization, local government departments across the country drafted and carried out work plans that took aim at house churches. Often, these departments identified unregistered house churches and coerced them to join the government-monitored Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) by threatening them with forced closure.

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