During 2019, many Catholic churches were closed down for refusing to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Even state-run churches are suppressed.
by Zhou Xiaolu
Torn down as “illegal buildings”
On December 29, 2019, the Religious Affairs Bureau of Qishan county, administered by the prefecture-level city of Baoji in the northwestern Shaanxi Province, ordered to demolish a Catholic church in Luojiazhuang village. The church refused to be registered by the state, and was therefore suppressed for “lacking proper permits.”
A local believer told Bitter Winter that before Christmas, the church’s priest, having learned that the government wanted to demolish his church, went to negotiate with religious affairs officials from the county to the provincial level. He was told that the church was doomed to be dismantled, regardless if he tried to obtain permits because “the CCP is cracking down on religions.” Soon after, the church built with funds collected by local Catholics was razed to the ground.
The church’s cross was already removed in November 2018, and the church was rectified twice in 2019. It was later converted into a recreational activity club for villagers – the fate many places of worship suffer at the hands of the Chinese government. “We spent a year attempting to save the church but failed,” the church’s in-charge, in his 80s, complained.
A Catholic church in Guchuan village in Baoji city’s Weibin district was shut down in December for refusing to register with the state. Before the closure, Chinese characters for “Catholic Church” on an outside wall and all three crosses on the roof were removed. A local government insider said that nothing could have saved the church.
“This church has suffered a lot: the government tore it down during the Cultural Revolution, it was later rebuilt, and it was shut down now,” a local believer said helplessly. “The government came up with a thousand reasons to shut it down. Our church will be gone sooner or later.”
A state-approved church repurposed for a CCP members’ center
After the signing of the Vatican-China Deal of 2018, the situation of Catholic conscientious objectors who refuse to be registered continues to deteriorate: clergy members and believers are frequently harassed and persecuted, churches closed down or demolished.
But even state-run Catholic churches are not left in peace.
Last June, the government of Linyi, a prefecture-level city in the eastern province of Shandong, ordered to demolish a state-run Catholic church, claiming that it “occupied too much space.” The officials also said that they would be dismissed if the church continued to function.
Two months later, a two-story annex to the church with over 30 rooms was torn down. In November, the person in charge of the church was informed that the church building is spared for the time being, but it is going to be converted into a service center for CCP members.
The annex to the church building is being demolished:
The village committee soon took over the church. Religious statues and crosses were removed, and a sign “Service Center for Party Masses” was displayed above the front door, transforming the church, which was built at the cost of 4 million RMB (about $ 560,000), beyond recognition.
On November 9, another state-sanctioned Catholic church in Shandong was ordered to remove a Virgin Mary statue outside it after the central government religious work inspection team came for a repeat visit to the province.