Religion is anathema to the atheist Communist Party that rules China, and the menu of policy choices for regime leaders has been limited to “crush, control, or co-opt.” The administration of Chinese leader Xi Jinping has, so far, largely remained in this mold.

But even in the face of this panoply of restrictions and punishments, religious believers in China continue to grow in number, according to findings by Freedom House, a human rights NGO based in the United States.

“Despite tightening controls, millions of religious believers defy official restrictions in daily life,” said report author Sarah Cook, a senior research analyst at Freedom House.

The report, titled “The Battle for China’s Spirit: Religious Revival, Repression, and Resistance Under Xi Jinping,” focuses on the Chinese regime’s policies toward seven major religious groups in China. More than a third of the estimated 350 million religious believers face severe or very severe persecution, which includes “harsh penalties, long prison terms, and deadly violence.”

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