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12/25/2019 China (International Christian Concern) – Christians around China have been told that they should avoid holding public gatherings to celebrate Christmas.

According to Radio Free Asia, house churches in the southern province of Guangdong, the eastern province of Shandong and the southwestern provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou have been contacted by police and warned off holding any events.

“We are afraid to meet in public [because such meetings] have been designated illegal gatherings,” a Shandong pastor who gave only the name John said on Christmas Eve.

He said the ban appeared to target churches that had so far resisted joining the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement churches.

“We can’t do Christmas this year; we can’t hold any activities on Christmas,” he said, before adding “We celebrated it a few days ago in [smaller] groups, whereas in the past we were able to celebrate it with thousands of people coming together.”

A pastor of a house church in Sichuan surnamed Li said his church was under a similar ban, where they are “not allowed to celebrate Christmas here, and it’s the same across the whole country.” His church has more than 1,000 members who had been able to celebrate together in previous years.

A member of a house church in Nanyang city, Henan province said his church had been visited on Sunday by officials from the local bureau of religious affairs.

“The church is closed now, so we are holding smaller gatherings in people’s homes that they don’t know about,” the church member said.

A pastor from Guangzhou’s Guangfu Church said similar restrictions were in place on his church, and that Christmas decorations were no longer visible in shopping malls and other public spaces.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].