After destroying a church under construction, authorities issued a news release, claiming that the church was a “private building in violation of building laws.”
The authorities forcibly demolished a Three-Self church located in Wanning city in Hainan Province, in the southernmost part of China, which was being constructed by believers at the cost of over three million RMB (about $447,000). To conceal the truth, local officials issued a news release claiming that the demolished church was an illegally-constructed private building.
The church was located in Qinsai village of Hele town under the jurisdiction of Wanning. On December 28, 2018, the city government dispatched nearly 200 police officers, including SWAT police and urban management officers, to the scene. The demolition work was directed and overseen on-site by Wang Sanfang, the city’s executive vice mayor and a standing committee member of the Municipal Party Committee. About 50 believers were present at the church to guard it.
The authorities never acknowledged that they had demolished the church. Instead, they posted a news release on the local government’s official website, claiming they had destroyed an illegally-constructed private building of a person surnamed Feng (the person in charge of the church).
Video: Believers are weeping with anguish.
Local villagers questioned the explanation given by the authorities: If the demolished property was a private building, then why was the municipal Party committee leader personally on the scene?
“The church was funded and being jointly constructed by believers. Everyone could see that it was a church. The government was deliberately deceptive because they have an ulterior motive,” believers were indignant.
One believer recalled that before the demolition, Hele town government sought out some believers in Qinsai village, warning them not to oppose the government. On the day of the forced destruction, some distressed believers lay on the floor crying. The sound of their anguished weeping resonated from inside the church, but government personnel were unmoved. After a standoff that lasted for over an hour, under pressure from the government’s massive police presence, believers were forced to get out of the church. Afterward, two heavy-duty machines started demolishing the building, and the church collapsed amidst the roar of engines.
Another believer revealed that the reason the government didn’t admit to the public that it demolished the church was because it did not want to draw international attention and criticism. By claiming that they demolished a private building, the authorities sought to conceal the truth about religious suppression and preserve the government’s image and reputation.
According to available data, most of Qinsai and nearby villages are Christian. The old church in Qinsai, which was the first church of local Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement, was built over 100 years ago and had a limited capacity, so believers took the initiative to donate money for the construction of a new church that could accommodate 1,000 people.
The construction of the new church began in December 2017. On the day of its demolition, three floors of the main building, covering an area of 1,230 square meters, had already been built. It took a total of six days to demolish the church and level its foundation.
“One week prior to the forced demolition, the Hele town government issued a notice, giving us a maximum of five working days to demolish it ourselves. All of the brothers and sisters cried at the time; they all were building the church and put a lot of painstaking work into it over more than one year. The person in charge of the church led everyone in taking shifts to watch over and pray for the new church 24 hours a day, up until the moment when the church was demolished,” one believer told Bitter Winter.