Regarded by the CCP as its fiercest enemies, the statues of Buddhist deities are being demolished across China under orders from the central government.
by Ye Ling
Local authorities spare no effort to ensure the demands from the higher-ups, forbidding anyone – organization or individual – to have statues of deities displayed in the open air. Built with large sums of money, often donated by believers, religious icons are disappearing across the country, disregarding the massive funds spent and human resources used in the process.
Government spends millions to demolish a statue
Inside Qingguo Temple, located in Duqiao town, under the jurisdiction of Linhai city, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, a 15-meter-tall bronze Guanyin statue used to stand. It was built at the cost of three million RMB (about $ 450,000). Last year, its abbot received a notice from the town government, ordering the Guanyin statue to be dismantled because “religious statues cannot be located outdoors.”
A local Buddhist told Bitter Winter that to save the Guanyin statue, the temple’s abbot submitted a request to the Religious Affairs Bureau, asking to cover the icon, not destroy it, but the government turned him down.
In May, Linhai city government officials came to the village where Qingguo Temple is located for a meeting and took the final decision to tear down the Guanyin statue. A month later, the city government initiated a bidding procedure for the demolition works. A company from Luoyang city in the central province of Henan won the bid to take down the statue for 1.08 million RMB (about $ 160,000).
Shortly after the procedures were finalized, 20 workers came to Qingguo Temple and built a scaffolding with steel pipes around the Guanyin statue. In no time, the statue and its lotus-shaped pedestal were both dismantled.
According to insiders, the removal of the Guanyin statue was an order from the central government. If the demand were not carried out, both city and town mayors and party secretaries could have been punished. Therefore, each level of government was pressured by their superiors: no one was willing to lose their official position over this matter.
“The state is afraid that people who believe in Buddhism will increase in number and even outnumber the Communist Party members, affecting their regime. It’s the same as how the government tears down crosses,” commented another local Buddhist. “The Communist Party is suppressing religion because it has the power and does whatever it wants. The Communist Party is afraid of being unable to control the people, so it suppresses them.”
Guanyin statue at a popular scenic spot dismantled
In Hongyan Villa, a famous scenic area in Pingtan county of the southeastern province of Fujian, a Dripping-Water Guanyin statue, over ten meters in height, cost one million RMB (about $ 15o,000) to build. It was forcibly demolished in late May.
According to witnesses, to prevent believers from obstructing the demolition work, more than 100 personnel, including public security and anti-riot officers, were mobilized to surround the scenic area and prohibit villagers from approaching. The statue was composed of 99 stones, so it took more than ten days to dismantle it.
According to a source who requested anonymity, last August, authorities ordered Hongyan Villa to dismantle the Dripping-Water Guanyin statue, claiming that religious statues cannot be built at tourist attractions or exceed ten meters in height. Religious icons that violate building laws must also be torn down.
The county government didn’t want to dismantle the statue, but officials from above threatened to force the county committee secretary to step down unless the statue was dismantled, the source said, adding, “Xi Jinping is calling the shots now.”
“All outdoor Buddhist statues throughout the country are ordered to be torn down. If you protest against the demolition, it will be considered obstruction and defiance of the law. Ordinary people have never been a match to officials. The government is a criminal underworld. They may be smooth talkers, but they are bandits in reality,” a local believer wasn’t hiding his feelings toward the authorities.
In Fujian’s Fuzhou city, an ancient Wanfo Temple, built in 1010 and acclaimed as a Buddhist holy site, was also subjected to a crackdown. In March, 33 statues on the Guanyin Island, the temple’s iconic landmark, were ordered to be covered by the municipal United Front Work Department and Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau. The officials claimed that “there were too many Guanyin statues,” and the situation has to be “rectified.”
Pressured by the government, the temple had no choice but to spend nearly 200,000 RMB (about $ 30,000) to wrap the Guanyin Island with a safety net. The temple’s Arhat statues were also stacked together and covered with a red cloth.