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Chinese Communists' Latest Crackdown Forcing Registration on Religion App Sparks Persecution Fears

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Communist Chinese soldiers march past a poster depicting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, Oct. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Following reports the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is attempting to rewrite the Bible in its own image, there’s another troubling allegation about the restrictive government — that officials are testing out a new app demanding citizens pre-register before attending religious services.

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“This spring, in Henan province, they rolled out an app to get approval to go to any kind of religious service,” Todd Nettleton, chief of media relations for persecution watchdog The Voice of the Martyrs, told CBN’s Faithwire. “What that means is, you need to have the app on your phone.”

He continued, “You need to pre-register in order to go to a religious gathering, give the Chinese government all of your information, tell them who you are, where you live, your ID information, and so forth.”

Citizens in the People’s Republic of China can get approval to attend the gathering once they’ve gone through this process – and it’s only available for churches registered with the CCP; house churches and other unsanctioned gatherings aren’t permitted under any circumstances.

“If the authorities come into a church service … they simply ask everyone, ‘Hey, pull out your phone. open up the app. We want to see, did you sign up beforehand? Did you get approval beforehand?'” Nettleton explained.

Watch him describe the app and the CCP’s reported church requirements:

Religious freedom watchdog China Aid also discussed this app earlier this year, noting it’s called “Smart Religion,” and was developed by the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Henan Province.

And the app applies not just to Christian churches, but also to mosques, Buddhist temples, and other religious spaces, CBN News reported in March.

The chilling nature of this sort of regulation cannot be overstated, as Nettleton explained authorities can easily pinpoint and single people out, capturing their information. Furthermore, the CCP will be able to utilize the app to target people they discover who have evaded filling it out before attending.

“Now they’re even requiring people to register on their phones to be able to go to church,” International Religious Freedom Summit co-chair Sam Brownback previously told CBN News. “Well, that’s so they can track them and shut the places down.”

Despite only being utilized right now in the Henan Province, Nettleton believes the CCP could eventually expand usage of the app.

“It’s very easy to see it spreading throughout China,” he said. “We saw a very similar app-based control during COVID. The Chinese people had to register; they had to have a green checkmark to go on public transit, to go into certain buildings.”

Now, communist officials are seemingly attempting to control citizens’ religious experiences, with the app potentially painting a “target on your chest” pending how it’s utilized. Unregistered churches could also come under increased pressure, with the government luring them in by claiming persecution would decrease if they’d simply come “under communist control.”

Nettleton also clarified that no one under 18 is supposed to be at any religious service, with the new restrictions impacting adults who will be preregistering and “signing themselves up for pressure and persecution.”

“The other thing I would I would add to your list is: they also have almost unlimited resources to do this,” he said. “When you think about the number of manpower that they can throw at any given problem, when you think about surveillance cameras all over the country, when you think about the ability to track the location of people by their phones and by the surveillance cameras, they are seeking to control every person’s life at an incredibly minute level.”

Persecution watchdogs like Nettleton are waiting to see how long the app requirements take to reach other provinces.

As CBN’s Faithwire reported last year, the CCP has also reportedly been actively engaged in trying to write a more communist-friendly version of the Bible.

“This is a project that the Chinese Communist Party announced in 2019. At the time, they said it would be about a 10-year process … to release a new translation of the Bible,” Nettleton said at the time, noting it would include Confucian and Buddhist principles, among others. “This new translation … would really support the Communist Party.”

Watch Nettleton discuss the shocking Bible translation as well as broader religious freedom issues raging in China:

***As the number of voices facing big-tech censorship continues to grow, please sign up for Faithwire’s daily newsletter and download the CBN News app, to stay up-to-date with the latest news from a distinctly Christian perspective.***

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About The Author

Billy Hallowell writes for CBN's He has been working in journalism and media for more than a decade. His writings have appeared in CBN News, Faithwire, Deseret News, TheBlaze, Human Events, Mediaite, PureFlix, and Fox News, among other outlets. He is the author of several books, including Playing with Fire: A Modern Investigation Into Demons, Exorcism, and Ghosts Hallowell has a B.A. in journalism and broadcasting from the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, New York and an M.S. in social research from Hunter College in Manhattan, New York.