The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is once again attempting to control religious freedom in the country by requiring religious believers to register on the government-approved “Smart Religion” app before attending church services. The app, which was developed by the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Henan Province, forces believers to register their name, government ID number, residence, date of birth, and occupation before they can make a reservation. Even after registering on the app, believers must also pass a temperature check before entering the church.
China's New "Smart Religion" App Forces Christians to Register with CCP before Attending Churchhttps://t.co/bibnkN6KJ8
— The Daily Fetched (@DailyFetched) March 16, 2023
The CCP is well-known for experimenting with social policies in a limited geographical area before applying them nationwide, and it appears that Henan has been chosen as the guinea pig for this experiment. Henan has been called the “Jerusalem of China” due to its historic revival among Chinese house churches, and most of the major house church networks in China were started there.
Making religious adherents register to attend worship services is inherently intimidating and forces Christians and others to hand over evidence of their faith directly to repressive atheist authorities. This requirement alone, even when Christians are not prevented from attending church, will make believers think twice before attending a service, and some may opt out entirely.
The CCP also recognizes Catholicism as one of the five religions in the country and is heavily surveilled. The government forces churches to censor parts of Catholic teaching, and the app’s rollout is part of the government’s efforts to “strictly manage religion in a comprehensive way” by gathering data about religious believers. ChinaAid, a U.S.-based Christian charity, warned that the app would ultimately turn people away from religion, as it is an oppressive measure meant to accomplish political purposes rather than protect religious rights.
The Chinese government has also been actively banning religious apps they do not control. In 2021, Apple removed Quran Majeed, a popular app for reading Islamic religious text in the country, after requests from the Chinese government. While China recognizes Islam as a religion, it was also accused of human rights violations and genocide against the Muslim-majority Uyghur population in Xinjiang. Olive Tree’s Bible App was also withdrawn at the request of the Chinese Government.
The CCP’s latest attempt to control religious freedom is yet another example of its oppressive tactics and disregard for basic human rights. It is clear that the Chinese government is intent on controlling every aspect of its citizens’ lives, including their religious beliefs. By forcing religious believers to register on its “Smart Religion” app before attending church services, the CCP is sending a clear message that it will not tolerate any form of dissent or free thought. This oppressive measure should be condemned by all who value religious freedom and human rights.