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AI aims to persecute Chinese Christians

April 10, 2023 by Tim Dustin in Persecution updates

The world is looking to Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the future. Consider the explosive popularity of natural language processing tools like ChatGPT, which engage people in conversations on a wide array of topics, from history to religion and more.

But ChatGPT isn’t welcome everywhere—in part, due to censorship in China. A leading technology executive explained, “Our understanding from the beginning was that ChatGPT could never enter China due to issues with censorship … China will need its own version of ChatGPT.”

Given its track record of persecuting Christians, the communist nation would not permit a tool like ChatGPT to answer religious questions with truth and accuracy. For example, a simple inquiry like “Where can I go on Sunday morning?” would not be answered with “Consider going to church.” Similarly, a query like “Should I attend church?” would be met with a terse response such as “We don’t recommend attending church.”

China’s Supercharged Surveillance

Persecuted Christians in China are recognizing AI’s potential to perpetrate future human rights abuses. The technology has the ability to supercharge repression. It could supply the government with immeasurable intelligent surveillance networks, resulting in the monitoring and control of populations at an unimaginable scale—with a degree of accuracy far beyond human capabilities.

Former Facebook executive Kara Frederick, now Heritage Foundation Director of Tech Policy, believes AI is leading the tech wars: “President Xi said that by 2030 he wanted China to be the preeminent country in AI research and development.”

Pastor Mao Zhibin warns persecuted Christians in China and others that, “With the data collected from WeChat and hundreds of millions of surveillance cameras which are processed with artificial intelligence algorithms, the power is way beyond any other totalitarian regime.”

China recently banned its citizens on WeChat (one of the world’s most popular social messaging apps) from using religious words, including “Christ.” A baptism video posted on the platform also led to a Chinese pastor’s arrest. Former Beijing house church leader, Bob Fu, explains that, “The word Christ is in violation of the new law in categories including pornography, gambling, drug abuse, excessive marketing and incitement.”

AI Brings Increasing Christian Persecution in China

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom reported in December 2022 that, “Religious freedom conditions in China continue to deteriorate. The communist Chinese government has created a high-tech surveillance state, utilizing facial recognition and artificial intelligence to monitor and harass Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong and other religions.”

The Chinese government is already using AI to actively increase its Christian persecution for those it labels “not Chinese enough,” including Christians. A few years ago, China initiated a social credit system monitoring all Chinese citizens by using closed-circuit cameras, phone apps and purchases. The information collected is used to create social credit scores, which rank each individual on their “citizen worthiness.”

Additionally, China’s “Becoming Family” program sends spies out to live with families; they report anything contrary to the government’s prescribed ideas. When “suspicious” activity is reported, parents are duly shipped off to “re-education camps” while their children are sent to boarding schools for Chinese indoctrination.

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“Illegal Evangelism” Targeted in China

China has been tightening the grip on evangelicals, with Christians facing violence and false charges of corruption. They are labeled as cults and illegal religious activities. Church leaders and members of unregistered churches are being targeted by authorities for questioning and harassment.

In 1996, Fu and his wife, Heidi, were imprisoned for two months in China for “illegal evangelism.” He warns, “The Chinese government has steadily increased the oppression and control of Christians, particularly through the use of technology.”

“Techno-authoritarianism in China has begun to reach new extremes under Xi Jinping,” states Fu. “AI is being weaponized in the growing transnational repression of Chinese Christians around the world. This is China reaching across borders to silence dissidents through illegal deportations, abductions, digital threats and family intimidation.”

Prayer for AI’s Influence on Christianity

Although AI can be used for beneficial purposes, it’s often utilized for terrible things like persecuting Christians. Believers are urged to pray; ask God to have His hand over the formation and direction AI takes, especially in China.

AI expert Yonatan Mintz says it’s no longer relevant to ask if we’re ready for AI—because it’s here. Now the question is, what to do moving forward?

About The Author
Tim Dustin is a staff writer for Global Christian Relief, a nonprofit Christian ministry that works to strengthen persecuted believers and raise awareness regarding Christian persecution. For more information, visit our website at GlobalChristianRelief.org.