Many observers were shocked when, at the end of 2006, the most senior religious official in China was reported by the Xinhua News Agency as revealing that the number of Christians in China had reached 130 million. Ye Xiaowen, the director of the Religious Affairs Bureau, an arm of the Chinese government, made the statement at two closed meetings held at Beijing University and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. His figure included approximately 20 million Catholics. Ye is the same man who, in June 1997, described all unregistered house church groups as “evil, illegal organizations that undermine social order.”
Ironically, such a high figure as 130 million must include a very large component of members of the very groups he so strongly condemned.
This was the first time that any Chinese official had come out with such a high figure, but it seems to be quite consistent—allowing for growth in the interim—with the CCRC’s claim 14 years earlier that a government report indicated that there were then 75 million Christians in the country. Ye’s announcement likewise got a mixed reaction. Some people welcomed it as a vindication of what they had been saying for years, others made light of it and demanded evidence, while others chose simply to ignore it.Main Article