Henan authorities continue threatening and coercing believers to “donate” their places of worship. In June alone, they took over 11 venues in Luanchuan county.
by Xin Lu
As part of its campaign to crack down on religion, the CCP has been forcing congregations to “donate” their churches. Manipulated and coerced, believers are mandated to hand over their places of worship; meanwhile, the authorities claim that they had been “willingly” passed over to the government. This practice is often implemented to make sure that believers have no place to renew religious practices after their meeting venues are closed down. Threatened with the demolition of their churches that have been built with the money donated by themselves, members of congregations have no other choice but to obey.
Numerous government-approved meeting venues have already been “donated” in the central province of Henan. In June, eleven Three-Self Church religious sites in Luanchuan county, under the jurisdiction of Henan’s Luoyang city, fell victim to this devious practice. Only a few acting Protestant places of worship remain in the area.
On June 4, the leaders of the county’s United Front Work Department and Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau gathered their subordinates and members of the Two National Christian Councils from the area for a meeting. The assembly’s main topic was to discuss how to accelerate the takeovers from congregations their religious venues that had been closed down.
The two bosses claimed that, according to the Guiding Opinions on Standardizing, Improving, and Enhancing Standards for Religious Work in Luoyang City, issued by the Provincial Religious Affairs Bureau, the Two National Christian Councils are entrusted with persuading the persons in charge of all cleared-out meeting venues to sign “donation” agreements.
Members of the Two Councils refused to cooperate, saying that the venues built with believers’ donation money are places to worship God. “How can they be donated to the government?” they questioned the legality of this policy enforced on the religious. “Donation is something done willingly, but you’re forcing us!”
This did not stop the officials – they bypassed the Two National Christian Councils and directly sought out persons in charge of the meeting venues to get them to sign donation agreements.
Government officials threatened the pastoral staff at a church in Shizimiao town, saying, “We give you two choices. The first is that we give you 85,000 RMB (about $ 12,000) and take over the building. The second – your church will be demolished in seven days.” Members of the congregation claim that the church’s estimated value is around 700,000 RMB (about $ 100,000).
The officials threatened to punish anyone who dares to obstruct the demolition, stating that the takeover process is part of the central government’s campaign to “clean up gang crime and eliminate evil.”
Wanting to save the church building, the person in charge was forced to sign the donation agreement in exchange for the price that is almost ten times smaller than the actual worth of the church.
This method is akin to forced demolition, causing believers to lose their meeting venue and leaving them unable to carry out religious activities.
One after another, congregation members voiced their grief, saying that the current government in China is corrupt and evil. “They are completely unreasonable. They forcibly take away churches, and there is nothing we can do about it!” the believers were devastated.
Meanwhile, a Three-Self meeting venue in Yashi village was “donated” after a streak of coercion and deception by the government.
“This is a national policy. Provincial authorities apply pressure on every level of government. If you don’t sign it, I’ll be punished,” an official told the person in charge of the meeting venue to sign the donation agreement. He promised that the government would compensate the congregation financially or allocate another plot of land to rebuild the venue.
The person in charge took the official’s word and signed the agreement. Unsurprisingly, no money or new land for the church have been received to date.
“The CCP employs all kinds of methods to eradicate Christianity. They use power to suppress people; there is no reasoning with them at all!” a co-worker from the church commented angrily.
The person in charge of another Three-Self meeting venue added that believers are now left in a dire situation: The government is closing down places of worship, leaving them nowhere to congregate, and it’s illegal to hold religious activities at home. “The state’s claims that it advocates for the freedom of belief are lies. How can we believe them?” the believer expressed his utter mistrust with the government.