The executive summary reports, "Since Xi Jinping took the helm of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in November 2012, authorities have intensified many of their restrictions, resulting in an overall increase in religious persecution."
The CCP currently controls the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) — the Communist government appoints bishops to the CPCA to insure they toe the line on Communist policies.
Speaking about Vatican-Chinese relations, the now retired bishop of Hong Kong, Cdl. Joseph Zen, told reporters in February, "To dialogue means to compromise, but the Communists are not ready to give anything; they don't need anything and they have full control of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, as they do of all religions in China."
The report released by freedomhouse.org claims "relations between Beijing and the Vatican have warmed since March 2013."
In a separate interview this month, Cdl. Zen seemed to contradict some of freedomhouse.org's reports, saying, "We are very much worried, because it seems that the Vatican is going to make a very bad agreement with China. And I can understand that the pope is really naive. ... He doesn't know the Chinese Communists."
The report, however, does seem to agree with Cdl. Zen when it states, "Catholic seminarians boycotted their own graduation ceremony to avoid Mass with an illegitimate, CCP-backed bishop." The report further asserts, "Catholic leaders have been forced to attend ceremonies lead by bishops who were appointed without papal approval."
Speaking about the confusion between the underground Church and the CPCA, Cdl. Zen said, "The problem is with the Vatican!" He added, "And they tell the priests, 'you have to obey your bishop.' They say, 'No! He is no more our bishop! Our bishop is still in prison!'"
The report claims Catholic persecution has decreased to a minor degree, but adds, "Nevertheless, some prominent figures in the Church remain skeptical about how much any deal would reduce repression of underground Catholics."
Of all religious groups, Protestants have reportedly faced the largest increase in persecution.
Christians in China have been sentenced to several years in prison for buying and selling allegedly "forbidden Christian devotional books."
China Aid, a Christian persecution watchdog group, issued a report Sunday detailing a court's decision from China's northeastern province.
Of the five missionaries sentenced, one pastor received seven years for reportedly engaging in the outlawed activity.