Nearly 100 places of worship were closed down in Daqing and Nehe cities alone. Believers were intimidated and pressured to renounce their faith, fined, arrested.
by Zhou Hua
As elsewhere in China, house churches in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang also suffer severe crackdowns. According to recently-received reports, from March 2019 to January this year, 60 Protestant churches that don’t’ belong to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement have been closed down in the prefecture-level city of Daqing. Among them, 32 in Lindian county, and three in Zhaozhou county. Nearly 30 venues were closed down in the first half of 2019 in Nehe, a county-level city with a population of almost 700,000.
On May 8, the police raided the Good News Church in Daqing’s Sa’ertu district, where the pastor and his wife were in a meeting with eight congregation members. The pastor was detained for 15 days for organizing “illegal gatherings” and was pressured to sign a statement promising not to engage in religious work anymore.
In April, a house church venue in the city’s Xincun district was also raided, and the police arrested its preacher and seven congregation members whose personal information was registered, and they were forced to sign statements pledging not to attend religious gatherings in the future. The seven believers were released the next day, while the preacher was kept for five more days.
After they close down religious venues, government officials often revisit them to make sure that they have not been reopened to believers.
A staff member from a sub-district office in the prefecture-level city of Heihe told Bitter Winter that the government entices cleaning workers to keep watch and report on places of worship by offering them monetary rewards.
As a means of persecution, religious venues are often given hefty fines. In September, the local government ordered to close a Sola Fide meeting venue in the county-level city of Mishan, mentioning in the notice that a penalty of 20,000 – 200,000 RMB (about $ 2,850 – 28,500) could be imposed on any individuals or organizations that host religious gatherings. By imposing such fines, authorities make sure that no one dares to rent for churches.
A house church preacher from the county-level city of Hailin told Bitter Winter that officials from the city’s Religious Affairs Bureau disclosed to him that they had been ordered not to process any applications for religious activity venue registration certificates because the government aims to shut down all house churches.
Many house church members reported to Bitter Winter that government employees often visit them at home to ensure they don’t attend meetings, pressuring them to renounce their faith.
In October, local officials threatened believers in a Ning’an city village if they continued attending places of worship, their food and farming subsidies, and also their pensions, will be revoked. They arranged six persons to monitor the streets where meeting venues are located to prevent people from gathering.
“Government officials forced me to denounce my faith, asked me to tear down the image of the cross in my house, threatening to revoke my subsidies. They threatened to disqualify three generations in my family from university entrance and civil service exams, or the army,” said a villager from Lindian county under the jurisdiction of Daqing city.
According to a government representative from Heihe city’s Nenjiang county, village officials could be punished if anyone in the locality is identified as Christian, and if such cases recur three times, “the village secretary would be removed from office.”