In another attempt by the Chinese government to suppress Christianity, Christian citizens who receive social welfare payments have been told they must abandon their faith or risk losing the money they use to survive.

According to a new report by Bitter Winter, a watchdog that monitors reports of persecution in China, this policy affects low-income religious citizens who receive government assistance.

Several cities and towns across the country have already implemented the policy including Shanxi province. They were called together for a meeting and ordered by the government to remove crosses, religious symbols, and images from the homes of people of faith who also receive social welfare payments.

They were also told to replace those religious symbols with portraits of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong and current President Xi Jinping.

A Christian who was directly impacted by the order told Bitter Winter that they came in his home and torn down his Christian imagery. The government then replaced it with a picture of Zedong.

“Impoverished religious households can’t receive money from the state for nothing – they must obey the Communist Party for the money they receive,” the Christian told Bitter Winter.

This policy was also implemented in Jiangxi province, where government officials withdrew a monthly disability allowance and a living subsidy from a man who is disabled and Christian.

“Officials told me that we would be treated as anti-Party elements if my husband and I continued attending worship services,” the man’s wife told Bitter Winter.

In addition, a house church pastor said village officials came to his home and replaced a cross with a picture of Zedong.

“All impoverished households in the town were told to display Mao Zedong images,” the pastor said. “The government is trying to eliminate our belief and wants to become God instead of Jesus.”

Christians in China have to live in fear of persecution, arrests, and even imprisonment.

In 2018, authorities in northern China demolished a Christian megachurch in a move denounced in religious rights group as “Taliban-style persecution.”

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