The government of this Shaanxi Province city has adopted drastic measures to implement orders from Beijing to eradicate Buddhist, Taoist, and folk religion temples.
by Zhou Xiaolu
Since April, people in Baoji city in the northwestern province of Shaanxi started noticing that doors and windows in some buildings started being blocked with bricks and concrete, and propaganda slogans promoting the core socialist values appeared on them.
To implement the central government’s orders, the municipal authorities have launched a campaign to eradicate temples in the city and its administered counties of Qishan, Qianyang, Mei, and Long, as well as other areas under the jurisdiction. Many Buddhist, Taoist, and folk religion temples that have not yet been demolished were ordered to be sealed with bricks and concrete.
“All our town’s temples have been demolished, except for two,” a resident in a village under the jurisdiction of Jinqu town in Mei county told Bitter Winter. “One of them, the Guandi temple, was spared for now, because believers managed to persuade the government by saying that the demolition would bring disasters.”
“The state has adopted a national policy that all the temples, licensed or unlicensed, should be sealed,” said a local government official form a Baoji city-administered locality. “Officials from every level of government are very ‘concerned’ about the temples in villages and townships. Group after group of officials drive to temples in various areas every day for investigations and inspections, to make sure that the temples have been closed down.”
A government official told believers while shutting down their temple in March that if it’s doors and windows are not blocked with bricks, they would still manage to sneak in.
Many Buddhist and Taoist temples have also been stifled in the central province of Hubei, closed down or demolished during earlier operations to suppress religions in the area. Because some monks and nuns have returned to the shutdown temples in secret as they had nowhere else to go, local governments now made them impenetrable by blocking their doors and windows.
“I’ve been a Buddhist nun for more than 20 years. Where should I go now?” a nun from Hubei’s Huangshi city asked when the Religious Affairs Bureau notified her about the closure of her temple last year.
She told Bitter Winter that she had repeatedly applied for official permits for the temple, spending a lot of money, but the government still has never approved her application.
“Officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau said that I could not get the permit even though I had given them money and that the temple would still be sealed and perhaps be demolished,” the nun said.
The nun was devastated when the master, with whom she had practiced Buddhism for years, died from a sudden heart attack several minutes after they received the notice about the shutdown of the temple.
According to some calculations, from April to October, in Hubei’s Jingmen city alone, at least 20 temples were forcibly demolished, 78 temples had their doors sealed and blocked, and the state repurposed one temple.