Authorities across China are demolishing places of worship at odd hours to avoid protests from believers, who are left with no chance to voice their grievances.
by Zhou Hua
Bitter Winter has disclosed numerous incidents of demolished Buddhist and Taoist temples that authorities are cracking down on using a variety of pretexts. Believers lose their places of worship and also suffered considerable financial losses. Threatened and intimidated by the CCP, they have no choice but to suffer in silence.
Temple demolished despite believers’ pleas
Miaolian Temple, a Buddhist temple in Wu’an, a county-level city in the prefecture of Handan, in the northern province of Hebei, was destroyed on May 22. The original temple had a history spanning over 200 years. In 2015, local believers and monks raised money to rebuild it on the site of the old temple. Since then, the temple has served as an important religious activity venue for the local people.
The government claimed that the temple was “unlicensed” and “occupied arable land.” According to village residents, on the day of the demolition, officials expelled all nuns and lay Buddhists from the temple. In an attempt to save their place of worship, believers got on their knees and pleaded with government officials for leniency. “This is a national policy,” one of the officials said arrogantly. “The temple must be demolished! It’s futile for anyone to try stopping it.”
One of the villagers refused to give up. Officials threatened that her son would lose his job if she continued obstructing their work and carried her away from the venue. Another villager was arrested for trying to block the demolition.
After a standoff that lasted until dusk, officials lied to the villagers that they would not demolish the temple’s main hall, and only the side halls would be taken down. But after the villagers had dispersed, the main hall was nevertheless destroyed at night.
Infuriated by the duplicity of the government, one believer commented, “The government not only arrested people and demolished the temple, but even wanted to haul away and sell the steel reinforcing bars left behind after the demolition. They’re no better than bandits and robbers!”
One more temple in Wu’an was also forcibly demolished on the grounds that it “illegally occupied arable land.” More than a dozen statues inside the temple were smashed.
“The temple was rebuilt on the site of an old temple. It didn’t occupy any arable land at all. We received consent from the Land Bureau to rebuild the temple, but now the government is framing us for illegally occupying arable land,” the temple’s owner said helplessly. “Who can resist CCP’s policies?”
Taoist temple secretly demolished early in the morning
On June 6, at 4 a.m., more than 100 personnel from several government departments, including the county’s Religious Affairs Bureau and Public Security Bureau, brought in two large excavators and a front loader to a Taoist temple in Shuangyashan city in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. The person in charge of the temple never received any prior notice about the planned demolition. Moreover, he was away on a trip that day.
According to eyewitnesses, along with the temple building, all statues and other valuables inside it have been turned it into a pile of ruins.
A local believer told Bitter Winter that when the temple was built in 2013, its owner signed a land- use contract with the village committee. Despite this, the temple was ordered to be destroyed because it “did not register with the Religious Affairs Bureau.”
The believer also revealed that the temple owner sustained losses of nearly 200,000 RMB (about $ 30,000). Attempting to get justice, he found a lawyer who told him that even though the case had sufficient grounds for a lawsuit, his suggestion was to drop it because this could “offend the Communist Party.” The local government would make the owner’s life extremely difficult, the lawyer said, and the owner was forced to give up his appeal.
Local Taoists were devastated, having lost their place of worship. “As long as the Communist Party says that a venue was illegally built, then it will be demolished, regardless of sufferings by common people,” a believer said. “It’s harsher than during the Cultural Revolution.”
“People don’t dare reason with the Communist Party. They always proclaim to be right, no matter what they say or do,” another believer added. “You have nowhere to seek redress. All you can do is suffer in silence.”