Buddhist temples and outdoor places for worship continue to suffer CCP’s persecution, as statues of deities are destroyed, religious symbols replaced by propaganda.
by Li Yan
Since the new Regulations on Religious Affairs came into effect in 2018, the CCP has been continuously destroying Buddhist statues on a variety of pretexts, ranging from “being too visible” to “obstructing the view for pilots.” Bitter Winter continues to receive reports about the government’s clampdowns on temples and outdoor worship areas across China.
On November 5, 2019, officials from the Sui county, administered by Shangqiu city in the central province of Henan, stormed into a Buddhist temple in Xiaoguo village. They demolished the temple’s signboard, incense burner, and the Earth Store Bodhisattva statue. They also confiscated Buddhist books and recordings as “materials propagating xie jiao beliefs.”
According to a local Buddhist, the temple was built in 2013 at the cost of over one million RMB (about $ 140,000), funded by local Buddhists. As the religious persecution intensified over the past few years, believers became reluctant to worship in the temple. “The government does not allow people to believe in Jesus or worship Buddha, and only wants them to believe in the Communist Party,” the Buddhist complained.
On December 2, local government officials demolished a Buddha statue in the courtyard of Mafo Temple, located in Sui county’s Haizhai village. A Buddha statue in the temple’s hall was smashed to pieces, and an incense burner and donor recognition plaques were destroyed.
A Buddha statue shrined in the Hall of Heavenly Kings in a Guanyin temple in Baoji, a prefecture-level city in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, was demolished and then buried. In Yan’an city’s Gelao village, a Buddha statue was wrecked in a Guanyin temple, and portraits of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin were posted over its sacrificial altar.
“The government demolishes every Buddha statue it sees,” a local villager commented. He added that “the emperor of our generation,” referring to President Xi Jinping, does not allow people to worship Buddha and only wants them to worship him.
Several hundred outdoor Buddhist statues of various sizes and shapes used to adorn the Thousand Buddhist Square in the Yuhua Palace Scenic Spot in Shaanxi’s Tongchuan city. About 20 million RMB (about $ 2.8 million) was spent to create the square. But in April last year, all this was destroyed on orders from the government.
Xiangshan Temple in Shaanxi’s Baoji city was built during the Kaiyuan Period (713–741) of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). In June 2019, to keep a Buddha statue from being destroyed, the temple’s director removed it and wrapped it in a cloth. He posted propaganda slogans and Xi Jinping quotations in the temple.
In September 2019, the Xifeng county government in the northeastern province of Liaoning covered all 800 Arhat statues in the Taoyuan Holy Scenic Area. In December, its largest Buddha statue was covered with a structure that looks like a lotus flower.
The Tiandian Garden Folk Tourism Holiday Resort in Shandong Province’s Ju county, administered by the prefecture-level city of Rizhao, was built in 2015. Residents in the area then donated one million RMB (about $ 140,000) to create a 12-meter-high Guanyin statue in the resort, which started attracting a constant stream of pilgrims.
On March 16, 2019, officials from the county’s United Front Work Department, Religious Affairs Bureau, and other institutions ordered the resort’s director to demolish the Guanyin statue for “being outdoors and too tall.” Because the demolition required complicated and costly solutions, the director had to cover the icon with socialist propaganda posters. The resort’s Lotus Temple was also shut down.