Police were ordered to isolate unofficial Christian groups in Baoding city, Hebei province, and spy on people worshipping at their churches, a group of religious activists has claimed. Quoting a classified document issued by the Public Security Bureau in Baoding city in August, the New York-based Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China said police had been instructed to separate activities by the officially-sanctioned Protestant Church and other groups. They said it was proof that the Chinese government was wary about Protestants who disobeyed the authorities. The document - entitled 'Work Plan on Terminating Illegal Christian Activities' - recommended all officers in Baoding city to heighten their vigilance against 'illegal Christians' between August and October last year. The crackdown coincided with the lead-up to the 16th Communist Party Congress, a key event in the political calendar. However, in addition to a specific action plan for the three-month period, the document also laid down general guidelines that could signal a hardening of the government's position towards Protestant groups deemed a threat to the authorities. During the crackdown, the city's police chief, Li Yunlong, headed a taskforce in charge of 'finding out everything about illegal Christians, bringing organisers of illegal activities and independent missionaries to justice, and shutting down venues used by the illegal Christians'. The term 'independent missionaries' apparently refers to evangelists who work independently from any churches. '[We] must strive to effectively halt the emergence of illegal activities by Protestants in our city,' the document said. Unlike previous government edicts, the latest one singled out Protestant groups as targets for control and demanded police officers include the crackdown on 'illegal Christians' as part of their daily work. It urged the officers to do a 'thorough and extensive' job in 'unearthing every detail of illegal activities by Protestants . . . and put all information in dossiers'. '[The intelligence work] must differentiate between what activities are legal, and what are illegal, which groups are [officially sanctioned] religions and which are cults,' it said. The document was most critical about 'cults working under the cloak of Protestants' and ordered officers to crack down on these groups 'swiftly and without mercy'. The government controls Christian worship through its officially sanctioned Catholic and Protestant churches. Critics say Christians who worship outside these channels are often subject to harassment and even persecution by officials.