China is creating a “blueprint” “system of persecution for the future” that could be sold to persecute people across the globe, head of the prominent Christian persecution watchdog agency Open Doors has warned. Open Doors USA CEO David Curry, joined by pastors from China, issued the dire warning about how China could be shaping the future of international religious minority oppression through its use of surveillance technologies to monitor Christians and other religious adherents. Curry warned that the “greatest threat,” in his opinion to human rights worldwide is China. Curry stressed that the implications lie in China’s development of surveillance to control its people.
“Its implications are not just for those within China but for every country,” Curry said. “It is frightening.” Curry said, China uses a social score system that grades its citizens based on their actions and the government’s creation of a network of surveillance cameras that have been put on street corners and in churches. “Citizens are given 2,000 points and every time they do something the government disagrees with, they are marked down for it,” Curry detailed. “Eventually, your travel is restricted, your children won’t get into the best schools. You lose points for taking your children to Sunday School. That is what the experience is like for many Christians in China” Curry said.
Curry travelled to China just a few weeks ago. “I saw with my own eyes the surveillance on the street and in the churches,” he said. “Facial scans when you enter Churches and then tracking you and generating reports on your behaviour.” Curry said that the more often a person is seen going to church, the more often they are labelled a “radical.” “They are shutting down house churches at a massive rate, 5,596 churches shut down, many because they refuse to put surveillance cameras up to watch their congregation.” Pastor Jian Zhu, who is the director of the China Institute at Lincoln Christian University, said that China’s persecution against house churches is the worst it has been since 1979.
“The Chinese government now has placed severe restrictions on the house churches, asking neighbours to spy on one another, placing pressures on school teachers and college professors to betray their students and sign a statement to denounce their own faith as well,” Zhu said. Zhu explained that many churches are asked to take down crosses inside and outside their buildings and put up pictures of President Xi Jinping at the centre of their worship stages. Underground churches are also accused of illegally fundraising because they collect offerings from congregants. Zhu said he has heard of cases where some cities have shut down all house churches.
“Now, they are trying to eliminate Christianity from public life,” he said. “Cameras are all over to watch church and Christians go to Sunday service. Families are threatened to not go to church or they or their relatives will be punished.” One Christian from China said that he and his family fled from China after the house church he attended was shut down. Curry stressed that the data “seems to point to the fact that China seems to be resurrecting the god-as-government state.” “We are all threatened by this: atheists, Jews, Muslims, everyone,” Curry said. “They are using this artificial intelligence and surveillance to a whole new level,” he added.
“Indications show that they are bringing these two systems together by merging the social scoring system with surveillance and artificial intelligence to give them the tools to oppress the people.” Curry said “It is already happening: not to Christians but to Uighur Muslims,” he said, noting that hundreds of thousands them have been sent to “re-education centres” in Western China. “Muslims are forced to give up their faith and their culture. It’s only a matter of time before the world jumps on to this technology because China is selling it to Iran and they are looking to sell it to Egypt. They are creating a system of persecution and we have to call it out now. Otherwise, it will be too late” Curry said.
Curry went on “Otherwise, they will sell it to Iran and others to oppress their religious minorities. That is why it needs to be really highlighted. Within five years, it would be almost too late to stop them. Curry said that Open Doors has asked the White House and others to support proposed legislation that he says would provide steps to “control the use of artificial intelligence and facial recognition around the world.” “What assumptions are being built into this that we need to know?” Curry asked. “Does going to church make you a terrorist in China? These are things we need to know.”
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