Jinping county government in Yunnan closes house churches, bans the Bible in the Miao language, and orders believers to hang Xi Jinping portraits at home.
by Bai Lin
Jinping Miao, Yao, and Dai Autonomous County in China’s southwestern Yunnan Province, bordering Vietnam, is home to the Miao people, one of the 56 officially recognized ethnic groups in China. For over 30 years, they have been fostering Christianity, after they started listening to foreign missionaries preaching over the radio in the Miao language. Almost every village has built a venue for religious gatherings.
As the CCP is implementing the nationwide campaign to eliminate religious venues that are not part of the state-approved Three-Self Church, most of the house churches in Jinping county have been shut down or demolished.
In July, the local government hired an excavator to demolish a meeting venue built with 20,000 RMB (about $ 2,800) raised by the residents of a Jinping county village. All church belongings were buried under the ruins. Officials ordered congregation members to attend meetings in Three-Self churches, threatening to arrest and even imprison them should they continue gathering.
“The closest Three-Self church is ten kilometers away, and one needs to go through mountains, on steep roads. For elderly believers who have no means of transportation, it is impossible to get there,” a villager explained. He thinks that by ordering believers to attend meetings in the far-away Three-Self church, officials are forcing them to give up their faith.
“They want to extinguish our faith like the burning fire, which dies out by itself without new firewood,” another believer, who has been a house church member for 30 years, said.
A young believer told Bitter Winter that the village committee ordered each household to hang a portrait of Xi Jinping at home. “They said that Xi Jinping is the boss, and we have to do this. The portrait must be put in the middle of the hall so that it appears in sight as soon as you open the door,” the believer explained.
The local government sends officials to inspect the closed down meeting venues throughout the county to prevent the resurgence of any religious activities. Believers are threatened to be arrested if they refuse to join the Three-Self Church and continue meeting in secret.
On a Sunday in June, a house church in the area bordering Vietnam was closed because it did not have an official permit. Almost at the same time, another meeting venue was sealed off because the authorities claimed that “it was dangerous to have large flows of people so close to Vietnam.” Even the meetings of two or three believers were banned.
“We don’t dare to hold public meetings as usual. We have to keep all doors and windows closed for our gatherings,” a local believer said. “Village committee officials even distributed us portraits of Xi Jinping and asked us to replace images of the cross with them.”
The house church members who agree to join the Three-Self Church immediately find themselves under the government’s strict control: their personal information is registered, and they are prohibited from using the Miao language Bibles, which are published abroad, since the government disallows the use of any religious texts that are brought from outside China. The pretext of “foreign religious infiltration” is continuously used as an excuse by the CCP to suppress religious belief.
A believer in charge of a Three-Self meeting venue in Jinping county revealed to Bitter Winter that the police would visit them at any time, and the local government prohibited them from sharing the gospel and host out-of-town believers.
“Our church will be closed down if we do not obey the government’s requirements. We have no choice but to obey, otherwise we’ll have nowhere to meet for worshiping,” the man said helplessly.