Gospel Church in Henan’s Pingdingshan city was closed down after law enforcement officers stormed it on October 23, menacing the congregation and seizing assets.
by Gu Xi
Members of the Gospel Church on Dong’an Road in the Weidong district of Pingdingshan, a prefecture-level city in the central province of Henan, recently recounted to Bitter Winter the events surrounding the raid and closure of their place of worship.
On October 23, 2019, officers from the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau, the Public Security Bureau, and the community committee joined forces to shut down this house church because they claimed that “it was unlicensed.” They broke down the door and threatened to arrest anyone trying to interfere with them. “It’s illegal to gather at an unregistered place. Freedom of religion can be exercised only with the government’s permission,” the leader of the Religious Affairs Bureau explained to the frightened congregation. A woman was taking photos, but an officer snatched her phone, accusing her of “obstructing law enforcement.”
The same day, the district’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau issued a notice, ordering to stop all religious activities in the Gospel Church, established five years ago with the money collected by believers. It was fined 50,000 RMB (about $ 7,000), and dozens of its hymnbooks and 37 chairs were confiscated. The following day, law enforcement officers sealed off the venue and posted a closure notice at its entrance.
“The government is a devil, but you are forced to listen to it, or you’ll be suppressed otherwise,” a preacher from the church said helplessly. “This is happening nationwide. People live more and more miserable lives.”
Even places of worship that decided to join state-run religious organizations are not exempt from the increasing persecution. In August 2019, more than 30 members of the True Jesus Church were attending a meeting in Hezhuang village, located in Pingdingshan’s Baofeng county, when over a dozen government officials raided it. They took photos and videos of the believers, claiming that they “were holding an illegal meeting and believed in a xie jiao.” Believers were told to stop all religious activities, and the church’s piano, tables, and chairs were confiscated. Another True Jesus Church venue in Pingdingshan was shut down at approximately the same time, also for holding “illegal gatherings.” Believers had no choice but to disperse into small groups.
“We are persecuted on our path of faith, but we will not give in,” an elder was comforting the congregation of a China Gospel Fellowship venue, also closed down in the second half of last year in Pingdingshan.
A house church member from the city told Bitter Winter that his congregation does not have a place to meet anymore after the government shut it down. “We live in fear every day,” he added. “If the CCP’s persecution continues, believers won’t have a place to worship together at all.”