China: Christians Must Submit Online Form to Attend Church

March 13, 2023

For background on Orthodox Christianity in China, see here.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in China, see here.

“‘Smart Religion’ App: Christians Must Submit Online Form to Attend Church,” by Gao Zhensai, ChinaAid, March 6, 2023:

(China—March 6, 2023) Christians in Henan province, China, must complete an online form and receive approval to attend church services. Officials refer to applications for church gatherings as a form of governance for “Smart Religion,” but no legal basis has been provided for such a measure.

Henan has one of the largest Christian populations in China. According to the “Smart Religion” requirements formulated by Henan’s provincial religious department, if religious believers want to participate in religious activities, they must make online reservations before they can attend services in churches, mosques, or Buddhist temples.

Local believers must register and make an appointment through an application called “Smart Religion,” developed by the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Henan Province.

According to the application’s requirements, religious people must select the religious venue they want to attend before booking. Still, the use of religious identification keywords such as “mosque,” “temple,” “Christianity,” and “Catholicism” is not allowed.

Applicants must fill in personal information, including name, phone number, ID number, permanent residence, occupation, and date of birth, before they can make a reservation. Those who are allowed into the church must also have their temperature taken and show a reservation code.

When it comes to questions about how elderly believers or older adults who may not know how to operate mobile phone applications make reservations, officials said that staff would assist them in doing so.

Reflections from the Christians indicated that the cumbersome application procedures have reduced the number of believers attending churches.

This so-called “Smart Religion” online application has been officially launched in some parts of Henan. In August 2022, the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau of Puyang County in Henan and the Henan Billion Second Electronic Technology Co., Ltd. signed a project contract for the “Construction of an Independent Command Platform for the Management of Smart Religion.”…

These management measures did not stem from the intention to protect the religious rights of religious people but rather are mediums to accomplish political purposes….