Chinese authorities have banned children from joining religious groups in its effort to crack down on religious practices, according to reports.
The ban also prohibits minors from attending religious sermons and from participating in religious activities, the Daily Mail reported, citing Chinese media.
The effort to exert more control began several years ago when churches in Zhejiang province were ordered to remove crosses from the buildings.
More recently, in early August, more than one hundred churches in Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province, reportedly received notices from government officials informing them that children will be banned from entering. The churches were also told that they were no longer allowed to organize youth summer camps.
It is unclear how widespread the ban on minors attending church has spread in China, but it is already affecting several provinces across the country.
Amnesty International researcher William Nee told the Daily Mail that the reports are “alarming” because they “seem to be coming in from fairly diverse areas.”
China is under a “religious revival” under President Xi Jinping, Nee said.
“The current government seems concerned that religion could be a means through which foreign values may ‘penetrate’ into China and ultimately affect political stability,” Nee said.
The ban also informs churches that government officials will investigate both government-approved churches and underground congregations who operate the tightly controlled Catholic and Protestant churches, Asian Catholic news site UCA News reported.