(From China Aid) – Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists in the Henan province of 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.
The “Smart Religion” app was developed by the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Henan Province. Users must select the religious venue they want to attend before booking. Yet 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 (presumably for covid) and show a reservation code. For elderly believers or adults who may not know how to operate mobile phone applications, officials said that staff would assist them in doing so. Not surprisingly, Christians in China say this has reduced the number of believers attending churches.