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Life as a Catholic in China
03:05 - Source: CNN

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There are hundreds of millions of believers in China

But religious practice is tightly controlled by the officially atheist government

CNN  — 

From an altar in a dingy backyard four hours from Beijing, Paul Dong is conducting mass.

He’s also breaking the law. Dong and his parishioners are among millions of illegal Christians worshiping in officially atheist China.

According to a new report from US-based NGO Freedom House, persecution of Chinese Christians and other faith groups has “intensified” in recent years.

“Combining both violent and nonviolent methods, the (Communist) Party’s policies are designed to curb the rapid growth of religious communities and eliminate certain beliefs and practices,” the report said.

Its release comes amid hot speculation over whether the Vatican and Beijing will strike a potentially historic deal on the ordination of Chinese bishops, ending decades of frosty ties.

Such a deal would not be welcomed by Dong and many of his fellow illegal worshipers.

“Jesus said one person cannot serve two gods, now the Vatican is willing to serve God and the Communist Party,” he said.