Fearing that China’s large Buddhist population will be hard to control, the regime is accelerating efforts to eliminate religious symbols.
by Li Ping
On November 16, the Public Security Bureau, SWAT police, fire department, and other government institutions in Gaizhou, a county-level city in the northeastern province of Liaoning, joined forces to remove the statue of Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva in Wanhe Temple. A week later, the figure was cut into three pieces.
According to a resident in the locality, the authorities claimed that the statue was demolished because it was “too tall, and it could cause a fire if struck by lightning.”
“It’s so ridiculous,” the resident commented. “The statue has been standing there for years, and no one has worried about it being struck by lightning. How is it a risk all of a sudden?”
The Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva statue is being demolished:
Merely one month after it was built, the 70-meter-long reclining Buddha in a tourist site in Dehua county of the southeastern province of Fujian was demolished. Local officials declared that national policies prohibit “outdoor Buddhist statues to be over 10 meters.”
“The reclining Buddha was built to benefit the prosperity and peace of villagers in the area,” residents told Bitter Winter, afraid to voice their criticism over the government’s actions publicly. “But the CCP authorities demolished it, fearing that the increasing number of Buddhists would influence the regime.”
“The Communist Party regards the fact that there are so many Buddhists in China as a danger; it is afraid that they will form an organization,” a government official from Fujian Province told Bitter Winter. “Therefore, it eliminates potential risks at an early stage. If no action is taken in time, it would be very costly to curb them when they are stronger. What the CCP orders must be implemented. Those who dare to resist will be punished in no time. It’s very easy since the Party can dispose of them by imposing arbitrary charges.”
Earlier in last year, the local government forcibly removed a 17-meter-tall white marble Guanyin statue from Huayan Temple in Shandong Province’s Qingdao city also because it was “too tall.” The statue, worth 3,000,000 RMB (about $ 430,000), was destroyed by cutting it into seven parts.
In June 2019, an open-air Nanhai Guanyin statue in Shangpan, a town administered by Linhai city in the eastern province of Zhejiang, came under attack after government officials detected it using satellite positioning systems. A crane demolished the 14-meter-tall statue, which was later was cut into four parts.
Over in Chongqing, a megacity in southwest China, a 21-meter-tall outdoor Male Guanyin statue in Yufeng Mount Scenic Area in Yubei district was destroyed in June 2019. An eyewitness told Bitter Winter that on the day of the demolition, the police cordoned off two intersections on the roads leading to the mount, prohibiting tourists from going up or taking photos. He added that the drill and concrete cutter used to remove the statue were emanating loud noises.
A tourist site in Maguan county in the southwestern province of Yunnan used to be home to 13 white marble Buddhist statues, which were constructed at the cost of 680,000 RMB (about $ 97,000). In May 2019, the local government removed all of them within a week, and a crane hauled them away to bury in a pit dug in advance.
In August 2019, an over 30-meter-tall Guanyin statue, built at the cost of over 5,000,000 RMB (about $ 700,000) in the Qilu Largest Buddha Scenic Area in Shandong’s Ji’nan city, was enclosed in a cuboid structure on orders from the local government. The statues of the eight Buddhist protectors of the 12 zodiac signs in the scenic area were demolished. Local officials claimed that they are eliminating Buddhist deities because the central government demands them to do so.
“I feel heartbroken looking at the scattered pieces of the destroyed Buddhist statues. The government just won’t allow people to practice their faith,” a worker in the scenic area commented.