In what is being called a “systematic” and “escalating” crackdown of Christian persecution, the officially atheist nation has arrested over 100 individuals in China’s continued efforts to stamp out any non-state sponsored religious expression.

Over 100 individuals in a Christian underground church were arrested in a series of coordinated raids, sweeping them up off the streets and out of their homes in an unprecedented show of religious suppression.

“This is systematic, this is escalating, and the whole world needs to pay more attention. The scale is unprecedented.”

Despite being an officially atheist country, China “recognizes” five religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam and Protestantism. However, the government mandates they submit to official regulation and approval by Beijing. US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback released a statement calling China a “country of concern.”

“My particular concern now for China is they’ve increased these actions of persecution against the faith community. China isn’t backing away from the religious persecution; it seems to be expanding.”

The arrests are just the latest in a string of actions by the Chinese government to persecute Christians. Early this month, the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate in Beijing was shut down for “repairs” indefinitely despite a heavy police presence in what is being called a “a veiled attempt to hamper Christmas celebrations, which attract thousands of people, even non-Christians.”

Cardinal Joseph Zen, Archbishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, has been publicly vocal in opposition to the regime, saying “Communists want to enslave the Church in China” and that their policy is one “total control of religion.”

The increased persecution comes with upcoming celebration of Christmas in China. The Urban Management Bureau of Langfang, a town in northern China, recently issued a ban on the sale and street display of Christmas trees, any outdoor sales promotions or celebrations. The ban extends to Christmas-related advertising such as posters, banners, light decorations, and even the sale of stockings and Santa Claus suits.

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