Officials in charge of religious affairs in the city of Xingtai of China's northern Hebei province
have urged members of the public to report banned religious activities. The country's faithful expressed concern that the Cultural Revolution
-style move would strangle church activities. This was a reference to upheaval between 1966 and 1976 launched by revolutionary leader Mao Zedong that resulted in widespread persecution and a death toll estimated at between 500,000 and two million. The July 10 announcement of a two-phone number hotline to report unsanctioned religious activities was made by the United Front Work Department and the Department of Ethnic and Religious Affairs in Xingtai, the oldest city in northern China with a history dating back 3,500 years. Citizens there have been encouraged to participate in cracking down on religious activities said not to be in accordance with national regulations
of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and against the legitimate rights and interests of patriotic believers
The public has been urged to report a wide range of religious matters, including public evangelizing, unauthorized publications and the establishment of new venues without permission. Other activities deemed unacceptable range from staging unauthorized events and unaccounted for donations to unsanctioned religious training and pilgrimages. A source, who did not wish to be named, believed the inflammatory measures were intended to create "Cultural Revolution-style panic" among practitioners of religion. He called for upper-echelons of the CCP's security apparatus to avoid a repeat of the tragic repression that marred this period. Another source noted that the restrictions on religious training applied to activities designed for children that are a normal and essential part of passing on religious knowledge. A campaign for the reporting of illegal religious activities has been spreading throughout China where, in some places, informants are given cash rewards of up to 10,000 yuan (US$1,450), including in Guangzhou of southern Guangdong province. Peter, a church member in Hebei, noted that "internal struggle" has been a long-running tactic used by the CCP that ignored respect for human rights and constitutional guarantees. He noted that persecution during the Cultural Revolution often involved false complaints and fabricated evidence aimed at eliminating the practice of religion. The hotline announcement in Xingtai was short on definitions, for example, in relation to illegal preaching, with an implication that any activities not carried out in an approved venue become illegal.
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