Source: Direct Reports from China
Date: May 1, 2018
The Regulations on Religious Affairs, revised at the 176th Executive Meeting of the State Council on June 14, 2017, became effective as of February 1, 2018. It states inter alia that it is forbidden to hold any religious activities involving minors.
To implement this provision, the pro-government Henan Province Catholic Patriotic Association, and Henan Catholic Church Committee (not to be confused with the underground Catholic Church in communion with the Vatican) gave notice on April 8, 2018 that any training activities for minors, including summer camps and winter camps, as well as participation of minors in religious services, should be immediately suspended. Churches that do not comply would be closed.
Bitter Winter has learned that warning signs “Minors Are Prohibited From Entering” were posted at many sites for religious activities all over China. UCAN China report that a
priest in Hebei Province, who doesn’t wish to give his name, said that the local authorities demand that the warning signs be posted in the underground churches as well. Otherwise, the churches would be shut down. A Catholic priest said that warning signs are also posted in the churches of Xinjiang.
Since April 2018, in the Catholic churches in the Dioceses of Kaifeng and Anyang in Henan, there were banners of “It Is Forbidden to Preach to the Minors in the Sites for Religious Activities,” as well as warning signs that “Minors Are Prohibited From Entering Into the Church.” The Henan government also sent agents to drive out the minors who would attend the services in the Catholic churches.
On April 1, Easter, when a Catholic church was holding mass in the diocese of Zhengzhou, Henan Province, the local authorities rushed into the church and forcibly drove out the minors. Afterward, every Sunday, there are police cars parked outside of the church and at least three enforcement officers guarding there, forbidding the churchgoers to take their children into the church. Even young children in arms are no exception.
On April 11, a series of pictures posted on Twitter showed that some community staff members were guarding outside of a Catholic church and hindering the churchgoers from taking their children into the church in Anyang City, Henan Province. On April 11 and 12, the Ninth Primary School in Shizhi, Linzhou City, Anyang, Henan Province and the First Primary School in Chengguan Town, Xingyang City, Zhengzhou sent an open letter to the parents of the students in their schools “Why the Minors Are Not Allowed to Enter the Religious Sites—An Open Letter to Parents of Students in Primary and Middle Schools.” It emphasizes that any organizations or individuals are not permitted to guide, support, approve, and allow the minors to enter into religious sites and take part in the religious activities, and claims that these actions are illegal. It was demanded that the parents and students acknowledge the content and sign their names on the letter.
On April 15, a Twitter user exposed that some teachers had sent text messages to the parents and demanded that parents who have religious faith take the initiative to contact the teachers, and be reminded that they are not permitted to take their children to the religious sites.
In order to block every possible way for the minors to access Christianity, the government has also forcibly shut down kindergartens and primary schools sponsored and managed by house churches throughout mainland China.
According to a post by a Twitter user on April 22, 2018, on April 13, 2018, Mai Zhong Xue Tang, a school specializing in home schooling, managed by Shangli Church received a notification from the Siming District Education Bureau in Xiamen City, Fujian Province. The bureau claimed that the School, with two campuses in Shangli Church and Qianpu Northern District, was run without permission.
According to a report in Ming Pao, a Hong Kong newspaper, in late March this year, Agape Church’s Bafu Kindergarten was forced eviction by ten agents of the security forces in black uniforms with riot gear. They not only expelled the students and teaching staff, but also threw the teaching aids out of the classrooms.
According to UCAN China, the Catholic Zhifang Church’s Tian’ai Kindergarten (located in the diocese of Anyang, Henan Province) was raided on February 14 and again on March 14. The local police claimed that the kindergarten was not properly documented and authorized. The schooling of 60 to 70 children in this kindergarten was affected by the police’s decision.