The local government forcibly destroyed a Three-Self church in a village of Henan Province for being taller than the local committee building.
Authorities of the Zhaihouchen village of Jian’an district in the city of Xuchang demolished a government-approved Three-Self church on June 16, because “it is forbidden for a church to be taller than the village committee building.” Before the demolition, the local government has repeatedly sent thugs to vandalize the church and harass its members.
In June 2017, the construction of the church’s extension, funded by the members of the church, was started. In November, right after the church’s 4th level was completed, the Zhaihouchen village party secretary came to the site and demanded to stop the construction. “The church you are building is already taller than the village committee building,” he said, alluding to the fact that the committee building is just two-stories-high. “You’re so arrogant if you dare to suppress the grandeur of the Communist Party by building such a tall church.” He immediately gave orders to demolish the church.
The members of the church, believing that the grounds for the demolition were unreasonable, appealed to a relevant government department to stop the village secretary’s orders. The department officials only confirmed the decision to proceed with the destruction of the church, berating the believers. “You Christians are traitors of the nation,” one official said. “Your church should be shorter than all government buildings.”
After the failed attempt to save the church, the congregation has been continuously harassed by groups of people who would show up at the construction site, harass and threaten its members, and even vandalize the facilities.
One congregation member revealed that, in November, the Zhaihouchen village party secretary, accompanied by some town government officials, local police officers, Jian’an district government officials, personnel from the Bureau of Religious Affairs, and seven known thugs from the village – 30 people in total – charged into the church during a congregation meeting.
Over 100 members of the church were inside when the thugs began to dismantle and destroy the portraits of the Lord Jesus and crosses in the church’s hall.
Seeing their church being vandalized, the believers knelt down and started to pray, many of them crying. As a response to this peaceful resistance, the thugs began to kick the church members savagely, attempting to prevent them from praying. One elderly church member pleaded with the invaders, “We have worked so hard to raise money to build this church, and now you’re going to demolish it! Why can’t you leave us in peace?”
The same village thugs returned to the church a few more times. Members of the church believe that they did so on orders by the authorities. The fact that the government would employ known hooligans to vandalize their church scared and agitated the congregation, making them stop meeting in the church. Instead, they started gathering in small groups at home. Four volunteers took turns keeping watch over the church.
On June 8, 2018, on orders by the local government, a giant crane appeared at the front entrance of the church. Eight days later, on June 16, the forced demolition officially began.
An elderly church member remembers the feeling of helplessness seeing the destruction, “As soon as I heard the sounds of demolition, it hurt so much as if my heart was being ripped out. I hated myself for being so powerless to protect the church.”
Even the government-approved churches in China cannot evade the crackdown on religious beliefs. Bitter Winter has been reporting about the demolitions or closing down of Three-Self Churches that belong to the State-approved united Protestant church across the country.
Source: Direct Reports from China