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About 120 million Christians live in China, but only 30 million are affiliated with government-sanctioned state churches. The remaining 90 million Christians worship in unapproved house churches.

It is difficult to state generalities about this massive nation, as what is true in one province may not be true in another.

Chinese Christians have long experienced persecution, but restrictions on religious freedom in China are on the rise.

As a result of the tougher regulations on religious affairs (that came into force on 1 February) house churches are facing increasingly aggressive measures to control their activities.

President Xi’s administration has been tearing down symbols of Christianity, such as crosses on churches, and imprisoning Christian lawyers who take legal action to prevent their removal. In some areas churches have been completely demolished.

Crackdown on Christmas
Christmas celebrations have reportedly been targeted in the crackdown with bans on anything resembling festive celebrations in some places.

Last Christmas a university in the north-eastern Chinese city of Shenyang banned its students from holding any gatherings to celebrate Christmas.

“In recent years, some young people have been blindly celebrating Western religious festivals” a directive from the Shenyang Pharmaceutical University’s Communist Party Youth League branch said. “It is forbidden to hold any Christmas-related event, in order to enable the broad Youth League movement to establish cultural self-confidence.”

In Anhui, an official public security notice declared, “Public places are not allowed to celebrate Christmas. Even creating a Christmas atmosphere – such as putting up Christmas trees, Santa Claus, wearing Christmas hats, and all other items related to Christmas is severely restricted. All Christmas-related activities are required to be cancelled.”

In Zhejiang, officials tore down a Christmas tree and in Hangzhou authorities warned Christians not to attend a Christmas celebration, leaving empty tables that had been laid and decorated, according to our partner, ChinaAid.

Please pray for the millions of Christians in China who will celebrate this Christmas in secret, and possibly in fear, amidst the increasing restrictions on their freedom.