To prevent members of state-approved Three-Self churches from practicing their faith, the CCP forces them to “donate” places of worship or seizes them forcibly.
By Xin Lu
Since last year, the CCP has shut down or forcibly demolished numerous Three-Self meeting venues, and it has been using the pretexts of forced “donation” and “mergers” of churches to reduce the number of Christian meeting venues, leaving vast amounts of believers with nowhere to congregate.
Officials concoct a devious scheme
A Three-Self church in Renzhuang village of Guandi township (under the jurisdiction of Xinxiang city in the central province of Henan) was demolished after the authorities orchestrated an elaborate set-up.
The church’s congregation members reported to Bitter Winter that on June 9, during a Sunday morning service, an unknown woman carrying a child came into the church. Since the prohibition for minors to enter places of worship was included in the new Regulations on Religious Affairs, multiple churches have been closed down for violating the requirement. So, an elderly believer in her seventies who was watching over the church tried to prevent the woman with the child to enter the church but failed.
Just as expected, after the service ended, about ten government officials came to the church, took photos of the woman with the child, and rebuked the person in charge of the church for letting a minor to enter the place of worship.
Although the elderly believer repeatedly explained that the woman wasn’t a member of their congregation, the officials dismissed her explanation and drove her out of the church. They then sent in an excavator to dig out a ditch in front of the church to block anyone from entering and locked the church’s gate.
A few days later, workers were brought in to demolish the church. A sign reading, “Activity Center for Party Members and the Masses of Renzhuang Village, Guandi Township,” was displayed on one of the remaining gateposts of the church.
A smug official said to the shocked congregation: “You never thought that the government would use this trick, right? Why didn’t you keep the door well-guarded?”
“The government wants to occupy the church’s land, so they organized a sting, sending in a woman with a child to enter the church and used this alleged violation to tear it down. That’s a typical style of the CCP, laying a trap to have people fall into it,” a church believer explained with anger.
200 police officers deployed to demolish a Three-Self church
“If you don’t donate the church to the village committee, it will be forcibly demolished,” Chengguan town officials threatened a Three-Self church in Henan Province’s Hua county in late May. The congregation couldn’t use the church since September last year after the authorities ordered to cease gatherings and welded the church gate.
“This is God’s temple. If we donate it to them, it will become a place of Satan. We’re determined not to donate it,” the churchgoers were adamant about keeping their place of worship. In response, at around 4 a.m. on June 18, the county government deployed to the church about 200 police officers armed with electric batons, who blocked off the nearby intersection, prohibiting believers from entering. Two excavators began demolishing the church, making loud noises, so some villagers came out of their homes to watch. But officers ordered them to go back and prohibited from taking photos or videos.
Within about two hours, the church was demolished, leaving a pile of ruins in its wake. “It will be better if a center for the elderly is built here in the future,” a town government official said before walking off with a swagger.
The church was built in 2017 at the cost of 700,000 RMB (about $ 98,000), all the money donated by believers. Looking at the pile of ruins, a congregation member commented that such actions by the state should be filmed to show people abroad what is meant by freedom of belief in China.
No donation – no church
Less than two years after it was built, a Three-Self church in Wuzhi county under the jurisdiction of Jiaozuo city in Henan was destroyed on May 28 because the person in charge refused to sign an “unremunerated donation agreement.”
That day, police officers guarded all the intersections leading to the church, threatening to arrest anyone who would dare to obstruct the demolition. Congregation members were afraid to say anything and watched as their church, built with the money donated by them – 3,000,000 RMB (about $ 420,000) in total – was razed to the ground.
On May 12, a Three-Self church, built at the cost of 1.5 million RMB (about $ 210,000), donated by believers, was demolished over in Hangzhou, the capital of the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang.