In China, telling someone, “God loves you” now appears to be a criminal offence – particularly if the person in question is the President Xi Jinping.

The current crackdown on Christians in China is hitting believers online and in person.

Among the latest to be detained is Zhou Jinxia, a Christian woman who is a regular visitor at Beijing’s Zhongnanhai Xinhua Gate with her cheerful smile and her banner bearing a bright red cross. The message of those banners, hand-written in blue, proclaims: God loves the people of the world and is calling out to Xi Jinping”. Yet for this, Zhou has been detained many times before for allegedly picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Last June, she was driven out of her village for trying to share her faith in the community.

But that didn’t deter her. This February, Zhou was removed from the gate in Beijing where she was hoping to catch the eye of the Premier and his wife. Police drove her back to her hometown and charged her with causing trouble. Zhou has been detained repeatedly. According to partners of Release International, which serves persecuted Christians around the world, Zhou is an unbreakable, irrepressible Christian woman”.

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She began her campaign after coming to the realisation that there can be no solution to the problems facing China unless President Xi receives God in his heart.

Zhou Jinxia with her Christian message for Xi Jinping. Picture: Release International, ChinaAid source
Zhou Jinxia with her Christian message for Xi Jinping Picture Release International China Aid source 1

Online crackdown

Even as the authorities were arresting Zhou, China was preparing to tighten its online crackdown against Christians. The Communist authorities introduced new measures this month aimed at controlling every word and image of religious content posted on the Internet. The crackdown is set to hit churches, seminaries and other ministries – but is particularly targeted at the churches that have been driven underground.

A Chinese attorney, Huang Deqi, took to the social media platform WeChat. He described the crackdown as contrary to the Chinese Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and religion to all China’s citizens. The state’s legions of cyber monitors removed his post within a matter of hours. But that clampdown on online Christianity had already kicked in before the new law could be imposed.

The screws were tightened at the start of the Covid pandemic when a Christian leader in Shandong called for seven days of fasting. Public security agents accused him of engaging in illegal religious activities and placed him under administrative detention. For what? For calling for prayer for coronavirus victims.

And in February this year, the Chinese authorities shut down livestreamed sermons by Wenzhou pastor Huang Yizi. The pastor had already served two prison sentences for challenging the forced removal of church crosses. Lawyers who’ve questioned the legality of tearing down crosses from churches have themselves been detained.

The bottom line in China is that a totalitarian state is attempting to exert absolute control over the church. And that state is officially atheist. It denies the existence of God and considers those who serve him as Lord to be potential enemies of the state.

The Communist authorities introduced new measures this month aimed at controlling every word and image of religious content posted on the Internet.

Driven underground

Imagine you were living in China. All churches have to be registered by the state and come under their control. Under this new law, you would have to submit every scrap of online religious content for state approval: every prayer request, link to the latest Christian music, any Bible verse that has blessed you. Every word would have to be checked and approved to make sure it promoted socialist values and supported the Communist Party.

And if, in all conscience, you could not bring yourself to come under such control, then your church will be driven underground and you would have to worship in secret, outside the law.

And yet the church in China continues to grow. In large part due to the courageous, determined faith of Christians such as Zhou, with her smile and her posters, who simply want to show President Xi Jinping that God loves him. The Christians in China that Release International supports want to bless and serve their country. As is their right under the Chinese Constitution.

The overcoming faith of these courageous Christians who live without freedom, should be a spur to those of us who do, to never take that freedom for granted; but to take our courage in both hands and boldly proclaim our faith.

  • Praise God for unshakable believers like Zhou who are prepared to put their lives on the line to share the Christian message. May the Lord give her wisdom and guidance as she seeks to proclaim His Word.
  • Please pray that Zhou will soon be released from custody and that China will live up to its constitutional promise to permit religious freedom to all its citizens.
  • Above all, please join Zhou in praying for Premier Xi Jinping, that the leader of the world’s emerging superpower will have a revelation of the love of God and the Son he sent as Saviour, Jesus Christ.

What we have in China is a totalitarian atheist state attempting to exert absolute control over the church. And yet the persecuted church in China continues to grow.