Moves by China's all-powerful Communist Party to gain tight control over religion have been ramped up in the Pengyuan district of the populous central province of Henan. On April 4, local authorities posted a notice that demanded those who follow the official religions to register with the residents' committee. Followers of Buddhism, Daoism
, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism should register, the notice from the committee read. Authorities in Henan, which has an estimated 300,000 Catholics, have been noticeably tightening their grip since September 2017. It has become the third province to dismantle crosses following Zhejiang
and Jiangxi. A reporter from Chinese media called the committee and a staff member confirmed the notice, saying it was just following instructions from its superiors. A Henan-based priest in the so-called underground Catholic Church loyal to Rome but not part of the official state-run Catholic association told ucanews.com that the authorities were not only targeting underground or house churches — the Protestant name for churches that are not members of the Beijing-run Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement — but were also including those who worship in government-controlled "official" churches. What remains unclear in a country where government is opaque and information difficult to extract is whether these efforts are localized and the initiative of local officials or a test run or broader campaign across one of China's most Christian provinces. Up to now, it appears to be localized. A priest from the state-run Catholic Church also revealed that church-run Wan Huying nursery in Yanlu parish of Anyang Diocese had been ordered to close, while the secretary of the local government said that all nuns in service had been told to leave the school. The diocese has not made new arrangements for them yet. "It happened at the beginning of April and the authorities did not give any compensation," the priest said. He also said that in Anyang Diocese minors under the age of 18 were not allowed to enter churches that have been guarded by government personnel each Sunday. New rules on religion forbid minors from attending church services. Local officials also took away all lights on the crosses of all churches in the diocese, while even street lights in some parishes were dismantled. "Churches without lights reveals their co-operation with the government," said the priest. All religious site management personnel and church property in the diocese must be registered. Those without a venue certificate that proves the churches or personnel have been registered and approved by the government were banned. Authorities have also organized study groups for Catholics and Protestants to learn the revised regulations on religious affairs
that came into official effect on Feb. 1. They held two study sessions for the priest's parish and the whole parish, including prelates and lay people. On March 21, officials of the Rushan County Religious Affairs Bureau of Pingdingshan City convened government-approved Protestant preachers to learn about the regulations, resulting in more than 700 faithful attending.