Disrupting the peaceful final days of numerous elderly believers, authorities harass senior care centers to block any promotion of religions.
by An Xin
As religious persecution escalates in China, local governments across China have suppressed countless nursing homes run by religious groups over recent years.
A nursing home in Fuzhou, the capital of the southeastern province of Fujian, run by a state-approved Buddhist temple, was demolished amid the coronavirus outbreak in February.
The nursing home, built over a dozen years ago, had 108 rooms, where not only elderly Buddhists but also homeless people found a place to spend their final years. Since 2019, various government departments started pressuring the temple’s director, forcing him to agree to demolish the nursing home because it was in the way of a railway line expansion.
“In under three months, officials visited the temple more than 30 times, demanding the director to disperse the elderly residents,” a source familiar with the situation explained. “They threatened to cut off the electricity and water supply and arrest the director if they didn’t move out. All this happened at the height of the epidemic. They sometimes came to harass the director at two o’clock in the morning.”
Unable to endure the pressure, the director signed in February an agreement to demolish the nursing home. A day and a half later, it was leveled to the ground.
“The government was determined to demolish it, unwilling to compromise. They are rotten to the core,” the source said angrily. He added that officials had promised not to obstruct the building of a new nursing home. But when the temple director approached them with his plans, they went back on their words, threatening to arrest him if he attempted to open a new center for seniors.
Most of the residents have left the area, and only several homeless people were taken in temporarily to stay in a house next to the temple.
A nursing home run by a Three-Self church in Fuzhou’s Gushan town was razed to the ground on July 2. Built in 2003, the 5-story building was approved by the local Religious Affairs Bureau in 2007 as a venue for the congregation’s gatherings and an elderly care center.
Before the demolition, local authorities repeatedly harassed the center. On April 11, over 70 government personnel were dispatched to demolish a 1-story building in the nursing home’s courtyard. Because no prior warning was given, and the staff could not remove the items kept inside the building, some valuables were buried in the ruins.
A congregation member complained that the government’s policies were changing all the time. “The nursing home was established nearly 20 years, supported by the local government, but now it was demolished,” he said. “The officials refused to show us any government-issued demolition notice.”
The Yangguan Love Nursing Home in Fujian’s Putian city was established in 2016 with nearly one million RMB (about $ 146,000) raised by members of a state-run Protestant church.
In April, the local government ordered the nursing home director to dislodge all residents within ten days because the building’s “fire control measures were substandard,” threatening to deduct his pension if he disobeyed. The director had no choice but to close the nursing home.
“Xi Jinping uses nice words to say that seniors should be given care and love, but countless elderly people in China are left unattended,” a church member who used to help in the nursing home said.
“The state bans faith-based nursing homes because religions have a great influence on society,” another believer from Fuzhou commented.