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World News

China holding secret conference on growth of Christianity

by Aaron James

Authorities have not publicly outlined the agenda of the event, called the Sinicisation of Christianity, but it is expected government officials, leaders from state-sanctioned churches and academics will be attending.

It's thought there could be more than 100 million Christians in China, with a growth of seven percent ever year. If this estimate is correct, this outstrips the Communist Party's membership of 87 million people.

The Pew Research Center in America has said China has 67 million Christians.

There are fears the Sinicisation of Christianity conference will look to increase Communist government control on the Church in China.

More than 1200 church crosses have been taken down, and other houses of worship completely demolished, since 2013.

This, and the detention of Christian human rights lawyer Zhang Kai since August, led to calls for Prime Minister David Cameron to challenge Chinese President Xi Jinping on religious persecution in his country when he made a state visit to the UK in October.

Currently, only state-sanctioned churches are permitted to exist in China, forcing millions of Christians to worship in house or underground churches.

Dr Scott Pacey, the deputy director of the Chinese Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, told Premier's News Hour: "They want to regulate it [Christianity] to make sure that religion doesn't conflict with state goals. Christianity has experienced quite a lot of growth in China in recent decades.

"That growth is obviously something that will be of interest to them and something that they feel they need to keep an eye on. The underground churches are really expanding quite a lot.

"In the 1980s when the regulations on religion were relaxed following the Cultural Revolution, there was a tremendous search for values that started to go on and this was a result of the disillusionment with Maoism.

"The rise of Christianity stems in part from that, but it's also a search for values in society when the totalistic worldview that existed before is now starting to change quite a lot."

Listen to Premier's Marcus Jones speaking to Dr Scott Pacey on the News Hour:

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