Rewards for informers, registration of believers, propaganda, and more – Jiangxi Province spares no effort to eradicate churches not yet controlled by the CCP.
by Tang Zhe
All over China, provincial and municipal governments are vigorously cracking down on religious groups that are not under direct government control, as part of the nationwide campaign to “clean up gang crime and eliminate evil.” As Bitter Winter previously reported, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Fujian, and other provinces and regions have been implementing this drive, mostly targeting Protestant house churches, the clergy and believers refusing to join the Patriotic Catholic Church, and religious movements on the list of the xie jiao.
The southeastern province of Jiangxi is no exception. According to reports by the official CCP media, on April 1, the 15th Central Supervisory Group for Cleaning Up Gang Crime and Eliminating Evil held a mobilization meeting in Jiangxi’s capital Nanchang. Immediately after the meeting, the government launched an omnipresent propaganda campaign, encouraging people to report “dark and evil forces,” meaning – people of faith, for a reward.
As elsewhere in China, the crackdown on the “disobedient” religious in Jiangxi is accompanied by the same tune of officials – Chinese should only believe in the Communist Party.
Keep your faith or lose social benefits
Immediately after the meeting on April 1, the government of Fuzhou, a prefecture-level city in the northeastern part of Jiangxi, launched a series of operations to suppress religion. One of the primary aims was to investigate the religious status of employees of state-run institutions and CCP members. Also, church venues were ordered to be regularly visited, believers questioned and registered.
As per a local government insider who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the authorities are using the collected information about believers to force them into giving up their faith by threatening to revoke their eligibility for a minimum living subsidy or expel religious people from the Party.
According to several believers in Fuzhou, threats to lose social benefits or other intimidation techniques are often employed to manipulate religious people into signing written statements refuting their faith. A member of a government-controlled Three-Self church in his seventies said that he was forced to write a “statement of repentance” under threats that his grandson would lose his job. “Xi Jinping is a dictator just like Mao Zedong. He wants to attack everyone who is disadvantageous to him. If he doesn’t attack them, he thinks that his power will diminish,” the believer said angrily.
The Fuzhou government insider also revealed that the information of registered believers is kept on record, which helps the authorities to gather further knowledge on the distribution of each religious group in the jurisdiction and is used for crackdowns to shut down places of worship.
Disperse or be arrested
In April, in Fuzhou’s Yihuang county alone, 11 house church meeting venues were closed down, four of them were Sola Fide places of worship.
The same month, a community security director in Fuzhou’s Dongxiang district stormed into a house church meeting venue that has more than 400 congregation members, and ordered everyone to disperse. He threatened to fine the person in charge with 100,000 RMB (about $ 15,000) and imprison him for ten years if he disobeyed. The official used white paint to smear religious symbols and Biblical verses on the walls. Pressured and intimidated, the congregation cleared out everything from the church, and the meeting venue ceased to exist. The person in charge continues to be closely surveilled by the CCP.
A member of the congregation told Bitter Winter that his church used to have 16 meeting venues in Dongxiang district, but most of them have been recently dissolved. Having no other means to practice their faith, believers are now holding secret gatherings of three to four people.
“I survived the Cultural Revolution and personally witnessed the tragic ordeal of the people of that era,” an elderly preacher at the church lamented helplessly. “Some people say that things will be fine after this period of turbulence is over, but in my view, the current situation isn’t going to improve; it will only become worse.”
Numerous meeting venues of house churches have also been shut down in April in other localities of Jiangxi, like Sanyang town, under the jurisdiction of Yichun city’s Yuanzhou district, and Ganzhou city’s Anyuan county.
Jiujiang city’s officials raided a “Home of Christ” church venue and prohibited its congregation from holding gatherings because their place of worship was unlicensed. The church’s signboard was torn down, the cross, audio equipment, and other items were removed from the venue, closing it for good.
“Why do we tell you to apply for a license? Because we could control the scope of your activities. Otherwise, you will go around door to door, preaching everywhere. Your thinking must change now. You must follow Xi Jinping Thought,” said one government official when shutting down the meeting venue.