The compromises Three-Self churches made with the Chinese government only brought intensified persecution, not peace.
“If you don’t follow the government’s demands, the church will be sealed off!” Government officials often threaten Christians in this way to force them to carry out all of the government’s policies.
Even making deals with the CCP isn’t proving to be beneficial for the communities of the Three-Self Church, which have sought to make concessions with the party in order to keep the peace. Instead, the government’s crackdown on religion is just too powerful, too menacing, too intent on seeing signs of belief erased.
To save their church, some Three-Self co-workers and believers have made repeated concessions with the government. They’ve removed crosses; they’ve agreed to the CCP’s theories and policies entering the church; and, in order to preserve the church architecture, have even agreed to repurpose or rent out the church. They seek to use these compromises in exchange for a bit of living space. Instead, however, the religious persecution has increased.
Church demolished, despite “obeying the Party and following the Party”
On November 20, a Three-Self church in Yejia village under the jurisdiction of Shangrao city in the southeast province of Jiangxi was razed to the ground. At its peak, more than 400 people attended services at this three-story church.
Before it was demolished, government officials, while conducting an inspection of the church, said that in order to keep the church, it must “obey the Party and follow the Party.” Not long afterward, local government officials demanded the believers dismantle the cross and also forcibly hung a sign reading: “Build the Chinese Dream with one accord; remember the Party’s kindness of precise poverty alleviation” in front of the church. They also demanded the church’s director pay 3,600 RMB (about $ 520) to cover the cost of making the sign.
“If you pay the money, it will be OK,” a government official said.
And so, the church’s director believed him and rushed to borrow money to pay the cost of a sign that touted the Party over God.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, government officials demanded the church’s third floor, which had not yet been completed, be demolished. Faced with no other choice, the church’s director did as told. But it did not bring about the desired peace: On November 19, government officials demanded the entire church be demolished—on the grounds that the church had violated regulations by opening a nursing home.
“There has never been a nursing home here. There are just some companionless elderly believers who live here occasionally,” the director said, to no avail.
A town government official gave the final reason, saying: “It has to be demolished! Even a provincial official has called. Armed police and officers from the police station will also be dispatched to come and demolish the church. Now, churches throughout the county—and even churches in the provincial capital—are hard to save. Don’t fight against the state.”
Ever-intensifying suppression; new church completely shut down
The church in Shangrao isn’t alone. In October, the government confiscated a large, 1,800-square-meter Three-Self church in Litun village, under the jurisdiction of Longmen town, in Luoyang city, in the central province of Henan. It was built at a cost of 5.6 million RMB (about $ 811,000) and is able to accommodate 2,000 people. In 2017, leaders from several government departments took part in the church’s groundbreaking ceremony.
“We’ll rent out the church first, so that the government officials don’t worry about it. Perhaps the church can be preserved that way,” they said. In desperation, the church’s director decided to rent out the church. Later, the director found an abandoned internet cafe to serve as a temporary church.
At first, just like other Three-Self churches, the new church hung a national flag and all kinds of political propaganda signs in accordance with government demands; sermons started to be “sinicized.” The local government didn’t intervene for a time. But the good times did not last long. On October 15, government officials demanded everything in the church be cleared out. After being in use for only three months and seven days, this church was sealed off.
“Great tribulations have arrived and perhaps greater persecution is yet to come,” a Three-Self church pastor told Bitter Winter. “Even if we do what the government demands, there still cannot be a moment of peace. Everyone still feels that danger is imminent. The ‘peace’ brought about by compromise is temporary. After all, the ultimate goal of the CCP is to eliminate all religious belief.”
Another Church demolished
On April 27, about 100 or more personnel from Public Security Bureau of Henan’s Yucheng county and Wenji township government drove police cars, ambulances, excavators and big trucks to Tongxintang Church in Chenlou village and forcibly demolished another church.
Video: Tongxintang Church in Chenlou village was demolished in the end.
It is understood that the government last August closed down the church. To protect the church from being torn down, the preacher converted it to a pin factory and occasionally secretly held gatherings inside, but repurposing the church was still unable to save it from the government.