After members of a True Jesus Church in Henan refused to have their place of worship repurposed by the state, about 1,000 government personnel came to destroy it.
by Xin Lu
On the morning of June 22, more than 200 believers were in a gathering at a True Jesus Church, located in Caidu town of Shangcai county, under the jurisdiction of Zhumadian city in the central province of Henan, when about 60 officials stormed in. Right before, the church’s electricity supply was cut off, and some officials climbed over the courtyard wall to break the gate lock to let in the rest of the group.
The director of the Religious Affairs Bureau, who was in charge of the raid, claimed that the church was engaged in “illegal fundraising” and was, thus, an “illegal building.” He ordered the person in charge to vacate the church, which would be converted into a nursing home, but the congregation refused to obey.
After the raid, the police frequently surveilled and recorded services at the church from its entrance. What believers didn’t know was that the government was planning a covert crackdown.
At around 3 a.m. on July 26, nearly 1,000 personnel from several county departments gathered at a nearby school, getting ready for an operation to forcibly demolish the church. According to sources who were present at the gathering, police officers were ordered to drag out all believers from the church, no matter how many would be present. To prevent information from leaking, nobody inside the church was allowed to take photos or makes phone calls.
As soon as all orders were given, the group of 1,000 people went to the church. All intersections leading to the church were cordoned off, officers stormed inside, and started dragging out congregants who were guarding the church. Two elderly believers were injured in the process; one was taken to the hospital because her blood pressure spiked from the stress.
The excavators are demolishing the church:
After thoroughly searching the church, the police took away a piano and four air-conditioning units, leaving other valuables inside, including a computer, a refrigerator, and believers’ belongings. Right after that, eight excavators began demolishing the church, worth about 10 million RMB (about $ 1,400,000). Three days later, the church was razed to the ground completely. All the rubble left behind after the demolition was quickly taken away, and a new lawn with saplings planted in place of the church, bearing no trace of its existence.
The authorities continued to persecute members of the congregation even after the church was demolished. According to one of the believers, after the first raid on June 22, the director of the Religious Affairs Bureau stayed in the church for a few hours to talk to congregation members who were trying to persuade him not to repurpose the church. In August, eight persons in charge of the church and 13 churchgoers were charged with committing “unlawful detention” of the director and were arrested. Three believers fled the area to avoid detention.
A church co-worker compared the incident to the events during the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. “The CCP framed university students for rioting and used tanks to crush many of them to death. The Communist Party will resort to any means possible to achieve its goals,” the believer commented.