Mandatory Covid App Used to Track Believers in China
We recently shared of the increase in people coming to the Lord across China. This is great news, but this increase of harvest has not taken place without extreme risk. In 2020, evangelists handed out masks and Gospel tracts to help bring peace to fearful citizens. One worker told us, “In the first half of 2020, it was not easy to get masks in many cities in China – even though it was a requirement for everyone to wear. Our evangelists were warmly welcomed when they were able to hand out these much-needed supplies.”
This evangelistic effort was obviously needed, but as 2020 went on, citizens faced a new method of government restriction. According to one of the local pastors, the electronic monitoring activities have increased significantly as a result of the pandemic.
One new way the Chinese government has been able to track the movement of church members is through a phone app that is now required for travel. If Christians do not have a green code on their phone (indicating that they are considered healthy), they are not allowed to leave their home, get a taxi, buy a train ticket or ride on a bus.
This phone app is connected directly to their ID card. Every citizen’s phone must be registered with the government. You cannot buy a SIM card in China today without an ID card. When an unregistered card is used in China, the police are alerted and the user of the phone is immediately investigated.
Here is another example of how these new electronic restrictions work: “Someone sent a message to [their] pastor about a home group meeting. The message was sent from a phone that was not registered [with the government] and in less than ten minutes the police were knocking at their door wanting to know where the text came from. TEN minutes!”
To continue in the face of these restrictions, the underground house church has gone back to its original modus operandi and are meeting in homes again. They are not meeting in sanctioned buildings; they are not using mobile phones, computers, or modern technology. They are going back to the method that has worked for all these years – small groups in homes. One of the pastors shared with us, “this has been a time where the church has had to rely on local leaders, not foreigners, not YouTube, not mp3 recorded sermons. It has been a time of personal study in the Word.” Because of this return to home meetings, there is a growing need for more workers to share the Gospel in China.
“I think that things are getting more difficult,” one pastor told us. “We are not scared, but we were expecting it to come.” Please continue to pray for our friends who continue to stand strong in faith and share the Gospel in the face of tightening restrictions.