Over the past few months, government-controlled Protestant Three-Self churches in various locations in Henan Province have either been shut down or forced to take down their crosses.
After the crosses of the Central Church in the town of Wolong and Bo’ai Church in the city of Yongcheng were taken down in April this year, three more Three-Self churches lost their crosses. Even the government-approved churches face severe persecution from the Communist Party government, leading some to believe that the closing down of churches is just the beginning of the full-scale campaign to completely eradicate Christianity and most probably, other religions from China.
Government Workers Demand Cross Dismantling Fee
On April 25, the government of the town of Chenguanzhuang Township in Yongcheng forcibly tore down the cross of the township’s Three-Self Christian church. A government official, Mr. Song, commented, “The cross has too much influence; if everyone believes in the Lord, then who will believe in the Communist Party? We have to act quickly and take it down!” After tearing down the cross, Mr. Song also ordered government workers to put up two banners with anti-religious messages on the church’s doorway. Subsequently, Song demanded 560 RMB from the person in charge of the church as a fee for taking down the cross and putting up the banners.
On April 26 at 3 p.m., Party Committee Secretary Jiang of Miaoqiao township in Yongcheng brought a group of personnel to the local Gospel Church, announcing, “Your cross is too big; if it falls it could be a safety hazard,” and then sawing off the cross from the church’s roof. Afterward, the city’s Bureau of Religious Affairs’ discipline inspection chief, propaganda committee members, Miaoqiao’s village secretary, and others started coming to the church regularly, claiming the need to inspect the church’s power lines for infractions or fire hazards as an excuse for conducting surveillance on church gatherings.
On April 27, Shen’en Church, a Three-Self church in the village of Dingxi, Chenji town, had its cross taken down by the local government as well. One government employee threatened the preacher who tried to stop them, “We’re going to take down every cross in the county; you dare oppose the Party and its policies?” Then they directed the dismantling crew to use a circular saw to cut down the church’s cross, and paint over the words “Shen’en Church” with black paint. Church members who witnessed this complained that the government seeks to suppress religious beliefs.
Afterward, the government workers demanded that the director of the church give them 400 RMB as a fee for removing the cross; the church director refused.
Ultimate Goal – to Eradicate Christianity in China
Commenting on the Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly strict management and suppression of the Three-Self Church, a local government employee revealed that, next, they were planning to arrest all of the well-known Christians in the city and demolish all of the churches. “Right now, Xi Jinping is in a frenzy wanting to crack down on the believers in God. The central authorities have passed down orders, and are putting pressure on all levels of cadres, telling them that anyone who doesn’t do their job in handling this matter can pack his or her bags!”
A pastor from a local church who wanted to remain anonymous said, “The central government is currently very much afraid of civil unrest, and fears that if people believe in God, no one will believe in the Communist Party anymore.”
For this reason, according to him, the central government has issued documents stating that, in China, an absolute leadership of the Communist Party must be enforced. “North, south, east, west, and center – all must heed the Party and act on its orders. Next, the government is going to take away people’s Bibles, and forbid their printing. They will ban Christians from singing Canaan Hymns, and will only allow singing ‘red’ songs, such as ‘Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China,’ ‘The International,’ ‘The East Is Red,’ and ‘Three Rules of Discipline and Eight Points for Attention.’ In addition, they will make churches raise the national flag in their yards, and put the images of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Xi Jinping, replacing the images of the Lord Jesus in the church.”
The pastor believes that the government strictly prohibits minors from believing in God and persecutes and controls Christians of all ages with the ultimate goal of completely eradicating Christianity in China. He quoted a government employee who once told him, “When an elderly believer dies, that’s one less of them; and then they’ll slowly die out, and Christianity will be eradicated from China.”
Source: Direct Reports from China
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Bitter Winter plans to report on how religions are allowed, or not allowed, to operate in China and how some are severely persecuted after they are labeled as “xie jiao,” or heterodox teachings. We plan to publish news difficult to find elsewhere, analyses, and debates.
Placed under the editorship of Massimo Introvigne, one of the most well-known scholars of religion internationally, “Bitter Winter” is a cooperative enterprise by scholars, human rights activists, and members of religious organizations persecuted in China (some of them have elected, for obvious reasons, to remain anonymous).