Communism, even with modifications, is still communism.

BEIJING (AP) — China’s government is ratcheting up a crackdown on Christian congregations in Beijing and several provinces, destroying crosses, burning bibles, shutting churches and ordering followers to sign papers renouncing their faith, according to pastors and a group that monitors religion in China.

The campaign corresponds with a drive to “Sinicize” religion by demanding loyalty to the officially atheist Communist Party and eliminating any challenge to its power over people’s lives.

Bob Fu of the U.S.-based group China Aid said over the weekend that the closure of churches in central Henan province and a prominent house church in Beijing in recent weeks represents a “significant escalation” of the crackdown.

“The international community should be alarmed and outraged for this blatant violation of freedom of religion and belief,” he wrote in an email.

Under President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, religious believers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country undergoes a religious revival. Experts and activists say that as he consolidates his power, Xi is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982.

Fu also provided video footage of what appeared to be piles of burning bibles and forms stating that the signatories had renounced their Christian faith. He said that marked the first time since Mao’s radical 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution that Christians had been compelled to make such declarations, under pain of expulsion from school and the loss of welfare benefits.

A Christian pastor in the Henan city of Nanyang said crosses, bibles and furniture were burned during a raid on his church on Sept. 5.

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