The CCP builds up momentum in its effort to eliminate independent Buddhism. Under various pretexts, temples and statues are destroyed, and monks told to “return home.”
by Ye Jiajia
While the CCP’s campaigns to demolish state-approved Three-Self churches and dismantle crosses is continuing all over the country, in the eastern province of Shandong, the local government is zeroing in on Buddhist temples, such as the Huaizi Temple located in Huaizi’an village of Pingyi county, under the jurisdiction of Linyi city. Built in 2016, in the recess of a mountain, the temple was well-known in the area and visited often by worshippers.
Now it is no longer—the CCP had it demolished, under the pretext that it was “illegally occupying land.” The head of the temple tried to preserve it, negotiating with local government officials and even writing a letter offering to donate the temple to the state without reimbursement—to no avail.
On May 23, the local government hired people to haul every single Buddhist statue inside the temple onto two large vehicles. And at 2 a.m. on the 24th, more than 50 personnel, including the county Party secretary and armed police officers, arrived at Huaizi Temple with three excavators. They set up a police checkpoint with four officers guarding either end of the mountain road leading to the temple, prohibiting anyone from approaching. At noon the following day, the temple’s palace halls were turned into a pile of ruins.
Huaizi wasn’t the only temple fated for destruction. The Dabei Buddhist Temple (大悲禪寺), located in the Laoshan district of Qingdao city, was also forced to close. In 1959, the temple collapsed, but was rebuilt in 2011. Now, all of the Buddhist statues have been dismantled, the temple’s abbot and several monks have been driven away.
On June 21, officials from several government departments directed a crane to break into the temple. After nine days, 101 Arhat statues and a Guanyin statue were dismantled. The dismantled Buddhist statues are now stacked in an open space inside the temple and have been covered with a tarpaulin. The incense burner was buried underground.
“Nothing can be done about it. This is nationwide. This is an order given by Xi Jinping,” one believer told Bitter Winter. “Who would dare to disobey? The Communist Party doesn’t let people believe in anything; people are only allowed to believe in Communism. What is the criminal underworld they mention? The Communist Party is the biggest criminal underworld.”
On July 4, a Buddhist statue at one temple, also located in Laoshan district of Qingdao city, was violently dismantled. Six people sent by the town government smashed and destroyed the Buddhist statue with iron sledgehammers. The head of the Buddhist statue was cut off and the body was smashed to pieces.
A Buddhist statue inside the temple in Laoshan district was smashed:
“All Buddhist statues must be dismantled now. The government is demanding that they be dismantled,” one local villager said. “This is a national policy; there is nothing we can do about it. Starting last year, it has been like the Cultural Revolution.”
The list of demolished or carved out temples is endless. Temples in Jinan, Zibo, Tai’an and other areas have also been subjected to crackdowns.
Over in Woluozi village, under the jurisdiction of Pingdu city, the Yuanming Temple was ordered to be closed at the end of April by the local Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau under the pretext of “overhauling” Taoism and Buddhism. Like the others, all of the temple’s Buddhist statues and incense burners were covered with red sheets of galvanized iron. Monks who had been living in the temple for years were also forced to leave the temple and return to secular life.
On April 22, a monk from another temple in the same city received a notice from the local United Front Work Department, demanding that he move out of Chenghuang Temple that day. It had been many years since he left home to become a monk, and he had no home to which to return. So some kindhearted people helped him hide. Now, he lives in fear, not daring to step outside.