The authorities of a county in Jiangxi Province are repurposing places of worship and turn them into Party propaganda centers.
The majority of religious sites in Poyang county, under the jurisdiction of Shangrao city, in southeastern China’s Jiangxi Province, lost their crosses last year. After an exploratory inspection by the deputy head of the Jiangxi United Front Work Department (UFWD) Cao Guoqing on January 14, the authorities intensified the crackdown against churches, making sure that the remaining crosses disappear from the county’s skyline for good.
Among the victims of the purge was Guxiandu town’s Chengjia Three-Self Church. First, the authorities labeled the church as a dilapidated building and had it torn down. Then, the new building that was still being built was deemed illegal, and all construction works were ordered to be stopped, leaving Christians without anywhere to worship.
The Christians were puzzled: “The government promised us that after the old church was torn down, we could build a new one, but now they don’t approve it; they’re purposefully doing it, so we have nowhere to congregate.”
In mid-February, claiming that the grounds of Gubei Three-Self Church, also in Guxiandu, exceeded the area allocated to it, the town government destroyed over 10 meters of the church’s perimeter wall.
A Poyang county bureaucrat stated, “When the provincial government realized so many people in Guxiandu town believed in Jesus, they ordered the county and town governments to restrict the expansion of Christianity. If the Gubei Three-Self Church isn’t gone, the Secretary of Party Committee will be dismissed from public office. No one dares to oppose the policies of higher authorities. One preacher in Gunan community was even arrested just for talking back to government officials.”
In March, the church was repurposed into a cultural center; as one official said, “to be used for various programs.” During the first days after the center’s opening, “red” propaganda movies glorifying the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) were shown to the public.
In Poyang’s Xiejiatan town, the authorities shut down Fushan Church, a house church, on March 20, threatening to arrest anyone who tried to enter. The church had been applying for certification for several years, but was never approved. Local officials ordered to rent out the church to the village committee to serve as a cultural center; if the church leaders dared to object, it would be demolished.
Two days later, the leaders of Yuanyang Three-Self Church in Guxiandu town heard a similar verdict: sell the church to the village to be used as an entertainment venue or have the building destroyed.
Some members of the congregation gathered outside the village committee office, and others were calling in trying to stop the selling of the church. The officials prohibited church co-workers from answering the phones and used physical force to make the church head handprint the contract. In a short while, the keys to the church were taken away, and the congregation left without a place to worship.