Source: Direct Reports from China
Date: May 30, 2018
On May 5, 2018, a village official from Wuzhi County, which is part of the prefecture-level city of Jiaozuo, Henan, used an electric drill to remove four Chinese characters 以马内利(meaning “Emmanuel”) on a horizontal inscribed board that belonged to a Christian from the Three-Self Church. The village’s security defense chief claimed that, according to a Central Committee’s document, these four characters were banned and must be removed, and it was not allowed to even paste anything that has these four characters. Another official said that Xi Jinping had determined to abolish religions and that nobody was allowed to believe in Jesus.
On April 11, village officials visited a Christian named Guo Zhi (pseudonym, over 70 years old) and ordered her to destroy four Chinese characters meaning “Emmanuel” on her horizontal inscribed board. Ms. Guo had no choice but to have her daughter cover the characters with cement a week later.
Ms. Guo’s experience is just one of many cases. Since April, incidents like this frequently occurred in cities of Henan Province, such as Zhengzhou, Kaifeng, Sanmenxia, Jiaozuo, Dengfeng, Yima, and others. All horizontal inscribed boards were ruined if they had Chinese characters, like 以马内利, 神爱世人(“God loves the world”) and 主赐平安(“The Lord gives peace”), disregarding whom they belong to –an individual Christian or a House Church.
On April 3, some village officials from Xiuwu County, which is also part of the prefecture-level city of Jiaozuo, received a notice from authorities informing them about the establishment of offices in Henan dedicated to cracking down on religions on provincial-, city- and county-level. The authorities also ordered local governments to work out the number of households under their jurisdiction that possessed religious inscriptions and report on the removal progress on a weekly basis.
In mid-April, village officials in the city of Sanmenxia ordered Christians to destroy the horizontal inscribed boards with 以马内利(“Emmanuel”) themselves. Otherwise, they would be fined 500 RMB and detained. Afterward, the government would dispatch people to remove the boards with a front loader.
In the same month, authorities of the city of Dengfeng instructed its Municipal United Front Work Department, the Bureau of Religious Affairs, and the Public Security Bureau to notify the directors of all Three-Self Churches that all words relating to the belief in God in Christians’ houses must be removed in three days, including Christian calligraphy works, paintings, couplets, and tiles of horizontal inscribed boards with 以马内利(“Emmanuel”).
As of late May, religious horizontal inscribed boards almost disappeared across Henan Province, destroyed either by believers themselves or by government officials. Christians feel both frustrated and helpless.
Bitter Winter reports on how religions are allowed, or not allowed, to operate in China and how some are severely persecuted after they are labeled as “xie jiao,” or heterodox teachings. We publish news difficult to find elsewhere, analyses, and debates.
Placed under the editorship of Massimo Introvigne, one of the most well-known scholars of religion internationally, “Bitter Winter” is a cooperative enterprise by scholars, human rights activists, and members of religious organizations persecuted in China (some of them have elected, for obvious reasons, to remain anonymous).