(Guangzhou, Guangdong Provinve – December 19, 2023) The Guangzhou Municipal Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau in Guangdong Province released a video on “How to Report Illegal Religious Activities” on December 6. This is Guangdong authorities’ attempt to foster an environment of mutual distrust among the public, encouraging them to report each other’s “unlawful religious” activities. The authorities are promoting public participation in preventing and combating illegal religious activities to ensure social stability. The underlying premise of the whistle-blowing measures involves conspiracy theories about religious activities, suggesting that overseas individuals in China may be engaged in illegal activities under the guise of religion on behalf of hostile forces and criminals.
The video released by the Guangzhou Municipal Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau on June 6 simulates the process of a man participating in religious activities, and the woman reporting it to the religious bureau.
The video depicts the male protagonist participating in an “English corner” organized by foreigners in China. The video implies that the “English corner” is just a cover for the religious activities of foreigners in China. The video shows a group of people making prayer gestures in dim light and plays a segment of them reciting in an unidentified language. The male protagonist also indicates that they will organize team-building activities overseas.
The female lead then reported it to the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau. After being awarded money, the female protagonist smiled and said that she received a “relationship fund (money saved and used specifically for dating).”
An employee working in the religious bureau then shows up on the screen, solemnly stating that in the jurisdiction of Guangzhou, if event organizers suspect religious activities, they can report them by phone, mail, or in person, and the informant will receive a reward.
According to the official promotion from the Guangzhou Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau, the city has introduced the “Measures for Rewarding the Masses for Reporting Illegal Religious Activities.” The fourth article includes the following reporting methods: telephone reporting; written reporting, requiring the content of the report letter to be as specific and detailed as possible, to be mailed or directly make in-person visits to the ethnic and religious affairs bureaus in various districts, the sub-district Offices of Social Stability & Security, and public security bureaus, among other departments.
The scope of the reward includes reporting activities related to religious extremism, endangering national security, secession of state, engaging in terrorist activities, and disrupting social order; reporting the unauthorized establishment of venues for religious activities, non-religious groups, or venues for non-religious activities hosting religious activities; reporting unauthorized religious education and training activities, and so on.
Among them, those who provide information and assist in investigating and dealing with illegal religious organizations outside of China are awarded RMB 3,000-5,000; those who assist in investigating and dealing with the key personnel of illegal religious organizations outside of China and personnel who are the backbone of such organizations in China are awarded RMB 5,000-10,000. Those who assist in investigating and dealing with (non-foreign) illegal religious organizations will be rewarded 1,000-3,000 yuan.
The “Measures for Rewarding the Masses for Reporting Illegal Religious Activities” also states that “In today’s world, religious extremist ideology and violent terrorist activities have become a social cancer, and our country has also suffered deeply from it. The use of religion for infiltration refers to the activities of foreign hostile forces using religion to implement strategies of ‘Westernization’ and ‘division’ against our country, engaging in activities that violate our constitution, laws, and policies. Currently, the use of religion for infiltration activities outside the country is pervasive and showing an escalating trend.”
Article 41, paragraph 1, of China’s National Regulations on Religious Affairs, stipulates that non-religious activities, non-religious colleges and universities, venues for non-religious activities, and non-designated venues for temporary activities are not allowed to organize or hold religious activities, or to accept donations of a religious nature.
Article 71 of the “Regulations on Religious Affairs” stipulates that those who provide conditions for illegal religious activities shall be warned by the religious affairs department. If there are illegal gains or illegal properties, the illegal gains and illegal properties shall be confiscated. In cases of serious circumstances, a fine of more than 20,000 yuan and less than 200,000 yuan may be imposed. If there are illegal houses or buildings, they shall be handled according to the law by the planning, construction, and other departments. If there are violations of public security management, administrative penalties shall be imposed in accordance with the law.
In the past century, whenever the Chinese government faced a domestic crisis or lacked political confidence, it tended to redirect its struggle towards foreign countries, especially Western states. Unfortunately, Christianity and Catholicism, often perceived as Western, become targets in such situations, making them susceptible even when they are not directly involved.