As part of the ongoing campaign to eradicate religions, the regime disposes of religious symbols, pressures believers to give up God, and follow the Communist Party.
by Tang Zhe
Last December, after a deceased Three-Self Church member from the western part of Jiangxi, one of China’s southeastern provinces, was buried, her family painted a cross on the gravestone and erected a wooden cross behind it. A few days later, they were contacted by local government officials, who had inspected the cemetery and found the crosses, and were ordered to remove them. If not, the gravestone would be destroyed, the officials threatened, and the family had to oblige.
“The government is unreasonable,” a local Three-Self believer said indignantly. “The deceased was buried less than a month ago. Even the dead can’t obtain peace!”
A few months earlier, on September 11, the cross of the Grace Church in Zixi county in the prefecture-level city of Fuzhou was forcibly demolished on orders by the local government. According to an eyewitness, at 5 a.m. that day, more than 100 people, including officials from the county and town governments and local police officers, cordoned off the intersections leading to the church and sent in a crane to demolish the cross. Some believers took photos and videos, but their cell phones were confiscated and images deleted.
The persecution of religion increased dramatically ever since President Xi Jinping took office. The government’s suppressive measures against all faiths are now often compared to those imposed during the Cultural Revolution. To get rid of religious symbols, local officials order to demolish crosses because they were too eye-catching or unpleasant to their superiors, and many other reasons.
In May last year, officials working in the government of Ganzhou city’s Yudu county were told that a central government chief was coming for an inspection to the county’s Tantou town. In preparation, the cross on a town’s Three-Self church was demolished because of proximity to the highway. The officials worried that they would be held accountable if the superior saw the cross.
The Tielu Gospel Church, a Three-Self church in Xiangshuitan township in Shangrao city’s Poyang county, was built with the 100,000 RMB (about $ 14,000) donated by the congregation. In late March 2019, local officials proclaimed that “the church had a bad influence because it was near a highway” and removed the cross. The church name on the outside wall was also taken off, and the affected area covered with ceramic tiles. In late November, a painting depicting Jesus, a plaque with “Immanuel” written on it, and religious couplets were removed from the walls inside the church.
The persecution of the church did not stop there. On January 19, local officials stormed into the church again and distributed portraits of Xi Jinping and secular couplets to more than 30 believers gathered for the service. They claimed that president’s images were being circulated nationwide to ensure that believers “have the Communist Party in their hearts.”
Video: Officials are distributing portraits of Xi Jinping to the congregation.
“The government has been demolishing crosses and religious symbols, it constantly demands us to display the national flag and Xi’s portraits,” a local believer said. “The CCP is making us believe only in it.”
The cross of a Three-Self church in Ruihong town in Shangrao’s Yugan county was demolished last August. The church’s pinnacle was destroyed later on because it “was in a foreign style and had to be changed to Chinese.”