The CCP cracks down on educational institutions with ties to places of worship to ensure that the young generation receives only “proper” communist training.
by Lin Yijiang
Among other limitations, the new Regulation on Religious Affairs enforced in February 2018, prohibit religious entities not approved by the state to operate schools. Since then, numerous church-run schools have closed down across China.
On June 11, government institutions in charge of education, religious affairs, public and national security in Ningbo, a sub-provincial city in the eastern province of Zhejiang, joined forces to raid a school, established by house church believers eight years ago. The school director and several teachers were taken in for questioning for “running an illegal school.”
This is not the first time the government suppressed the school. It was closed down in November 2018 for “being illegal and lacking approval.” Pressured by authorities, most parents had to send their children to public schools. The school continued to operate covertly, but the number of students decreased from more than 60 to just over 20. “The Bureau of Education explicitly told the director back then that his school couldn’t pass approval,” a staff member at the school explained.
The detained were questioned about their religious beliefs and family members. Officials also wanted to determine if the school received financing from abroad. “As U.S.-China relations are quite tense, the government is cautious about church-run schools’ contacts with foreign countries,” the school employee said. He added that severing financial ties between churches in China and foreign countries in the regime’s eyes is one of the methods to “resist foreign religious infiltration.”
Intimidated by the police, the church director singed documents, pledging not to open another school. The school’s landlord was pressured to terminate the lease contract.
The mother of one of the students told Bitter Winter that the authorities contacted parents on the day of the raid, ordering them to take their children home. Officers photographed everyone leaving the school and registered their ID information.
According to the staff member, the church director was of particular interest to the authorities because of his alleged connections with Reformed Presbyterian house churches. He once invited Wang Yi, the popular pastor of China’s reformed evangelical movement and leader of the heavily persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, to speak at the school. Last December, Mr. Wang was sentenced to nine years in prison for “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations.”
Suspected of supporting Wang Yi in his opposition to the government, the director was questioned in June about his previous communications with the imprisoned pastor and was pressured to sign a statement pledging to oppose him.
“The government is sensitive about the Reformed Church, fearing its opposition to the regime,” the school employee explained.
He added that church-run schools are suppressed because they teach students about God. “Their closure is part of the CCP’s crackdown on Christianity,” he said. “The government wants the young generation to become successors of the Communist Party.”
A Ningbo city resident told Bitter Winter that public school students’ summer tasks this year had a lot more “red tasks” than usual. They were asked to listen and read stories about China’s revolutionary past and its leaders, watch patriotic films.