More reports coming in from Henan where the government is intensifying its attack on Three-Self movement.
The Three-Self Patriotic Movement is the only Protestant form of church that is officially recognized by the Chinese government. It was officially founded in 1951 and has over 23 million adherents today. Moreover, the Christian population in China is believed to be the world’s seventh largest, 34% of which belong to the Three Self-Patriotic Movement.
Ever since the new Regulations on Religious Affairs came into force this February, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have begun to persecute religious institutions and heads under its control. One of the worst affected due to this is the Three-Self movement.
On April 20, local government officials from Qingfeng County in Henan paid a visit to a Three-Self church in the area. They claimed that the church was “too conspicuous” and sought to remove the word “True” from “True Jesus Church.”
The believers strongly opposed this attempt. When more than ten police officers tried to force their way inside the church, they were blocked by over 60 believers. In the heated exchange that ensued, four elderly Christians were shoved to the ground and dragged into cars by police officers. The officers also threatened the rest and said, “Anyone who doesn’t want to live will be taken to the police station.”
The officials returned next morning at 4 am and forcibly removed the word “True” from church signage.
Days later, the local Land and Resources Bureau sought to transfer the rights of the church land to the village committee on the grounds of church’s “illegal occupation of land.” When the believers protested, the authorities cut off the church’s water, electricity, and gas.
Finally, in the last week of June, the bureau issued the Decision on Land Administrative Penalty and reclaimed the church’s land use rights. They seized the church building and ordered the believers to pay a fine of 5,406 RMB. The church members petitioned to the provincial Religious Affairs Bureau but to no avail.
Meanwhile, something similar unfolded in the Qucun township of Puyang. The authorities shut down a Three-Self church on April 23. After that, the government ordered the church’s leaders to cover all faith-related signage at the entrance with a green banner. Nearly 100 believers from five surrounding villages now have no place to gather to practice their faith.
In addition to these shutdowns, crosses from 15 churches were also removed forcibly. Three-Self churches in Yuancun and Maliji villages, Liangzhuang township and Luhe town were amongst those targeted. A new church in Wanglou village, as well as a Wuqi church on Dongguan Street, had their crosses removed as well. According to local officials, as per an order issued by Xi Jinping, no church across China is allowed to have a cross.