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Freedom House: Chinese Communists Intensifying Religious Persecution

FILE - A church member shovels cement mix preparing to re-mount a cross on a Protestant church, which had been forcibly pulled down by Chinese government workers in Taitou Village, eastern China, July 29, 2015.

The Chinese Communist Party has "intensified" its persecution of religious practitioners in recent years under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, and the ramifications are being felt well beyond the boundaries of religious policy, according to the U.S.-based Freedom House nonprofit.

In a new report released Tuesday, the group said increased oppression from the Chinese government is creating a thriving "black market" for believers to practice their religion outside of the official institutions.

"The party's rigid constraints render it impossible for state-sanctioned institutions to meet the growing demand for religion in Chinese society," said Senior Research Analyst Sarah Cook, the author of the report.

According to the article, Chinese authorities regularly jail believers for long periods, or engage in sustained violence against certain communities to exert control over illicit religious practices. At least 100 million Chinese, or about one third of the country's population, face "high" or "very high" persecution levels, the report said.

While the government is stepping up its religious restrictions with electronic surveillance at places of worship and imprisonment of those who share religious content on social media, Cook said the efforts illustrate "a remarkable failure," as an increasing number of people are worshipping underground and using tools to circumvent internet censorship.

"It reflects the party's difficulty in confronting citizens who are willing to make sacrifices for higher principles. From this perspective, it would appear that in the long-term battle for China's spirit, an unreformed Communist Party will ultimately lose," she said.

The report shows that China's persecution of religious believers stretches across various faiths, and includes Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Falon Gong practitioners, who face severe human rights violations from the Chinese Communist Party.