The number of closed or destroyed temples in this Sichuan city over a short time has triggered residents’ fear of the Cultural Revolution resurgence.
by Huang Tianyi
As per recently received information, at least 160 Buddhist and Taoist activity venues in Luzhou, a prefecture-level city in the southwestern province of Sichuan, were shut down between February 2018 and September 2019. The suppression campaign was launched immediately after the new Regulations on Religious Affairs came into effect.
To eliminate any possibility of reopening, government officials ordered to block the doors and windows in some venues.
The people in charge of the suppressed temples were not informed about the impending closures. “I only learned from my neighbor that my temple was closed down by government officials, who came at night to seal its doors with paper strips,” the director of a Buddhist temple in Luzhou-administered Hejiang county told Bitter Winter.
A resident of Hejiang’s Baisha town said that his temple was closed on the day a county fair was held, and most people were not at home. Some people reported seeing government officials smashing a Bodhisattva statue in the temple.
At least 75 Buddhist and Taoist venues were shut down in Lu county—the largest number of suppressed temples in the four Luzhou-administered counties. Some temples were demolished, and their statues were smashed to pieces.
Some of the closed temples were ancient, spanning the history of hundreds of years. In April last year, the government of Hejiang town in the county by the same name shut down the Qingfo Temple, a rebuilt ancient temple that used to be called Shuiye Temple. Local officials announced that it had to be done because “burning incense to worship Buddha is likely to cause fire and result in casualties.” The building was repaired in 2015, with approval by the Urban Construction Bureau. Its entrance, windows, and incense burner have now been blocked with bricks.
The original Damian Temple, it was called Yunqing Temple at the time, in Tai’an town of Luzhou’s Jianyang district was built during the reign of Emperor Shaoxing (1107-1187) in the South Song Dynasty. It was registered in 2003 but was closed in November 2018, and all monks were driven away from the temple.
According to many Buddhists, the government’s current campaign to suppress people of faith is ruthless, resulting in crackdowns and demolitions of places of worship. Numerous believers are intimidated, mistreated, and even arrested. For elderly China’s residents, it is reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, when anything not supported by the CCP was outlawed and brutally suppressed.
“In the memory of many Chinese people, the word ‘campaign’ means political liquidation, bloody violence, ultra-leftist radicalism, and lawlessness,” a local teacher commented. “Many use this word to describe the current religious persecution, as Xi Jinping has awakened their fear of the Mao Zedong era returning.”
Throughout the years of ruling China, the Communist Party has launched hundreds of nationwide political, economic, and cultural campaigns that have resulted in the deaths of tens of §millions. During the first political purge after the establishment of the People’s Republic, the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries, launched in March 1950, at least 1.3 million alleged enemies of the state were imprisoned, and more than 710,000 executed. Some estimate that the numbers were even higher.