Date:  August 19, 2021

Qiqihar, the second largest city in China’s Heilongjiang province, on 9 August joined an increasing number of cities, districts and county governments to offer cash rewards to anyone who reports to the authorities on “illegal religious activities”.

Whistle-blowers could pocket between 500 yuan (£56, $77, €65) and 1,000 yuan (£112, $154, €132) for informing on private house gatherings, preaching, the distribution of printed religious works, audio-visual products outside churches, unqualified religious personnel and illicit foreign infiltration.

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Residents of Qiqihar are being told the new rewards scheme will ensure a “harmonious” religious landscape

The measures aim to “strengthen the control of illegal religious activities in the district and prevent any Covid-19 cluster resulting from religious gatherings”, according to a statement from the Meilisi Daur District United Front Work Department of Qiqihar.

It added that the goal was to mobilise the public to help ensure a “harmonious and stable religious landscape”. Reports could be made through phone calls, emails and letters.

Similar reward systems were introduced in Zibo and Weihai cities in Shandong at about the same time. One of the first cities to offer rewards was Guangzhou, the capital of Guangzhou province, in April 2019.

The measure is part of the ongoing crackdown by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on Christians. In July 2021 pastors in the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the official Protestant Church of China, were ordered to deliver sermons on a speech by President Xi Jinping to mark the 100-year anniversary of the CCP.