Chinese churches told to put up signs banning children as new religious regulations take effect

Christian churches in one province in China have been told to put up signs banning minors from entering, while some Protestant house churches in another province have been forced to close after new regulations on religion were implemented this month.

(REUTERS / Thomas Peter)Members of the congregation clean the unofficial catholic church after Sunday service in Majhuang village, Hebei Province, China, December 11, 2016. Picture taken December 11, 2016.

Speaking under condition of anonymity, a priest in Hebei province told UCA News that authorities had told them to put up signs saying minors were not allowed to set foot in religious establishments. He said churches that refused to comply were also threatened with closure.

Retired Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun also told UCA about the story of a Shanghai underground church which had been affected by the recently implemented religious regulations. A priest reportedly told the parishioners they would not be holding Mass since they were not registered so it was better for churchgoers not to come.

A local Catholic named Peter told UCA that China had no legal basis for banning minors from entering churches. He said officials were violating the country's constitution with this order.

"When minors enter internet bars, the government and police turn a blind eye," said Peter. "However, they are becoming very strict in prohibiting minors from entering religious venues. It is ridiculous."

Meanwhile, authorities in Xinjiang have sent more than 100 Christians to facilities where they are instructed on how to be loyal to China's ideologies instead of their religion. However, family members of the detainees have expressed concern over the poor living conditions in those places, The Express reported.

A local church leader told Open Doors that the detainees were held in facilities for one month or more than half a year. One family member said she did not know where they were keeping her husband, but she believed that God was still working through him even at the moment. 

Xinjiang authorities have banned all kinds of Christian activities not approved by the state under the guise of its "anti-terror" crackdown. In light of the current situation, Open Doors shared that a lot of Christians have opted not to go to registered churches and have joined smaller underground groups instead.