Revolutionary songs and traditional Chinese opera are replacing prayers and hymns after authorities forcibly take over government-approved churches.
House churches and other “unofficial” religious venues are not the only targets in CCP’s efforts to suppress religion: across China, government-approved Three-Self churches are also being demolished, repurposed, or forced to be “donated.”
On April 20, officials from Lugou village under the jurisdiction of Yuecun town of Xinmi city, accompanied by Party functionaries and performers from the Opera Fans’ Club, showed up at a Three-Self meeting venue, claiming that they were taking it over. Believers gathered at the entrance to stop the village officials from occupying the church, but police officers blocked them. The secretary general of the provincial Opera Fans’ Association used pliers to cut off the lock, and the village officials and others swarmed into the church.
The village officials directed workers to set up a stage and hang up the national flag inside the meeting venue. In a short time, the church was beyond recognition, as if it had become an activity center for Party members.
Headed by the village Party secretary, the officials stood smugly on the podium in the church and sang the song “There would be no new China without the Communist Party” to celebrate their great achievement of occupying the church. The village’s deputy secretary later came on stage and proclaimed: “According to the demands of the higher-level government, all of the church’s property belongs to the village. From now on, the church will become the village’s cultural activity center.”
According to a believer, the meeting venue was built at the cost of hundreds of thousands of RMB raised by believers. Before the takeover, city, town, and village officials were demanding the church’s head to transfer the church to the government at a low price, but he refused to do so.
Video: Inside the church, village officials sing “red” songs, while Opera Fans’ Association members perform traditional Chinese operas.
During the ensuing week, the local government held recreational activities at the meeting venue every evening. On April 30, government officials hung a signboard reading “Cultural Courtyard of Lugou Village in Yuecun Town in Xinmi City” at the church’s entrance.
A believer said angrily, “The Communist Party is shameless. They turned a place of worship into a thieves’ den.”
Huangdiling Church, located in Baizhai town under the jurisdiction of Xinmi city, was also forcibly repurposed and turned into a village warehouse. In March, a placard with political slogans was posted on the church, completely changing the church’s appearance.
According to the church’s believers, the church was built in 2014 at the cost of more than six million RMB (about $ 870,000) raised by believers. Starting in March 2018, the government ordered believers not to hold gatherings under the pretext that the church didn’t have a religious activity venue permit and sealed off the church’s front gate.
In late August, Chengguan town government officials used a large crane to forcibly dismantle the Chinese characters for “Christian Church” as well as the church’s cross.
In January, the Henan provincial Religious Inspection Team discovered that there were still believers secretly holding gatherings in the church, and immediately ordered the county’s Religious Affairs Bureau to close down and seal off the church. The village committee then brought in personnel to weld the church’s back door and installed another lock on the front gate. The church’s water and electricity supplies were also cut off.
A local believer said, “Since the church was occupied, we have no place to congregate, and are afraid of being arrested if we hold gatherings at home. The CCP is forcing Christians into a dead end.”