Source: Direct Reports from China
Date: June 25, 2018
Forty gathering sites of the Three-Self Church – the government-controlled united Protestant church – in Guanyintang town, Henan Province, were forced to close down in a period of few months, after the new Regulations on Religious Affairs came into force on February 1, 2018.
Han Wen, 55-years-old, lives in the mining district of Shanzhou, Guanyintang town, Sanmenxia city, and is responsible for a Three-Self Church’s gathering site. Around 9:00 a.m. on May 22, 2018, he received a call from a neighborhood committee representative who ordered him to take down all the plaques with Bible verses from the walls of the gathering site. This was not the first time that authorities harassed the church: two weeks before May 22, they closed down the church premises, that could accommodate more than 60 believers, and also ordered to remove religious plaques from the walls.
According to 6o-year-old Xie Mudao, a church administrator of another Three-Self Church in the town, in early February 2018, the China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee, together with the Township government, issued a document ordering the termination of the church’s Sunday school and prohibiting the minors from entering the church. The order also banned the church’s choir from participating in any religious activities outside the church. In March and April, officials from the County Supervisory Group, the Township United Front Work Department, and the Comprehensive Management Office frequently visited the church for monitoring and inspections. They also prohibited believers from using the traditional Chinese Christian Canaan Hymns and Hymns to Praise God. If they disobeyed, the gathering site would be banned for being illegal, established without the government’s permission.
As of May 6, forty gathering sites in all the villages in Guanyintang town have been closed down, since the believers were unwilling to comply with the government’s demands. Churches across the city of Sanmenxia have suffered varying levels of suppression and punishment.
Yang Yumin, a 50-year-old member of the choir in a Three-Self church in Mianchi County, Sanmenxia, disclosed that churches in township are under strict government monitoring. Registration books have been placed at the entrances of rural churches for people to register when entering churches. Anyone who is not a member of the church is not permitted to enter. The Township government sends officials to check if the content of sermons complies with the official rhetoric. If it does not – that particular church will be closed.
“Chinese Communist government has set up the Three-Self churches to give outsiders a false impression that the freedom of belief exists in China. In reality, it has continuously strictly controlled the church, intensifying the control in the past few years. It is obvious that authorities want to eradicate religious beliefs in China and strip people of any faith,” commented Yang Yumin.
The interviewed people wished to remain anonymous, the names are pseudonyms.