The CCP continues taking over places of worship, threatening congregations to demolish buildings if they refuse. Testimonies from Jiangxi, Liaoning, and Shaanxi.
by Wang Yong
One of the ways the CCP is implementing its plan to erode and destroy religion is by repurposing places of worship to replace faith with the banal, supplanting the words of God with communist ideology. Since last year, provincial and municipal governments throughout China have been adopting measures to close and transform religious venues for poverty alleviation, cultural, and recreational activities.
Four churches converted for cultural activities in Jiangxi
In March, a three-story Three-Self church in Dengban village in Poyang county of the northeastern province of Jiangxi was forcibly acquired at a low price by the government and converted into a cultural activity center.
A church member told Bitter Winter that during previous inspections, government personnel affirmed that the church had all necessary permits. “Later, they said that there was a problem with our land use certificate and our church would be shut down. The government is totally reckless and unreasonable!” the believer lamented.
He added that from the very beginning, all congregation members were unwilling to sign the agreement to sell the church, but officials threatened to destroy it if they continued to refuse. Believers had no choice but to give in. The church has now become a place for villagers to dance and have fun, leaving believers with nowhere to congregate.
Similarly, a Three-Self church in Poyang county’s Wangjia village was forcibly sold to the government and converted into a cultural center. The road to the final demise of the church has been long and bumpy. Officials first installed surveillance cameras in the church, dismantled the cross, raised the Chinese flag, and posted banners of national religious policies. Then, in February, believers were told that the church was “excessively high and wide” and didn’t have a land use certificate, and therefore, it had to be demolished or sold to the government. Pressured by the officials, the church’s co-workers had to sign the agreement, relinquishing the rights to their place of worship.
Now, the former church is called “Great Hall of Culture.” Members of the congregation were prohibited from posting Christian couplets at home and were required to display portraits of Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping instead.
More churches have been recently repurposed in Poyang county: Three-Self churches – Guang’en Church in Mabu village and one in Yuanyang village – and Gospel Hall house church in Zhekeng village. Dongtang Bay Three-Self Church, an old church in Zuoli town, under the jurisdiction of Jiangxi’s Jiujiang city, was also converted into a cultural activity center.
Liaoning and Shaanxi provinces follow suit
A Three-Self church in the Dawa district of Panjin city in the northeastern province of Liaoning, where ethnic Korean believers used to congregate, was forcibly converted into an activity center, although the church had all the needed documentation.
In October last year, the local Party committee ordered to merge the two Three-Self churches in the district, because one district cannot have two churches, they said. Otherwise, the church would be taken by force. The church leader was required to sign the sale agreement. Soon after, the Party committee ordered to move in billiards tables to the church.
In the northern province of Shaanxi, the Qishan county under the jurisdiction of Baoji city has seen multiple Catholic churches being repurposed for a variety of activities that have nothing to do with religion. In April, one more fell victim to the religious persecution – it was converted into an elderly activity center. If not repurposed, the building would be demolished under a nationwide campaign to eradicate churches “that no one can escape,” local officials claimed. The church’s outer walls were painted white, and a TV set and Chinese chess board were assembled in the church. Religious symbols and couplets have been replaced by the regulations to be observed in the elderly activity room.