Children have been banned from entering places of worship in several regions of China after new regulations for religious groups came into effect earlier this month.

A priest in Hebei province who asked to remain anonymous told that authorities had asked clergymen in some parts of the province to post signs prohibiting children from entering religious venues, prayer houses and other church premises. “They also threaten churches that they cannot be used if they refuse to post the signs,” he said.

A blogger wrote that “religious venues are the third premises, following clubs and internet bars, where minors are prohibited from entering”.

Peter, a Catholic in central China, said that he had seen the signs in churches in Xinjiang. He told “When minors enter internet bars, the government and police turn a blind eye. However, they are becoming very strict in prohibiting minors from entering religious venues. It is ridiculous.”

Before the regulations took effect, Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told that much would depend on how lower- and higher-level communist officials implemented the decision.

A priest identified only as Fr Thomas of Henan said much would depend on the relationship between the individual church and local government. He said he was talking to the State Administration for Religious Affairs “to strive for space for religious freedom and the Church to survive”, adding: “The living space for the Church is getting less and less.”

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