Buddhist temples continue to be demolished across China. Even their charitable projects, like providing a home for the elderly, are not spared.
by Li Guang
“These government officials are like a gang of bandits.”
Jingxin Temple in Zhengzhou, the capital of the central province of Henan, was built in 2016, at the cost of over 6 million RMB (approximately $ 860,000) funded by a local Buddhist in her 60s. The land for the temple was leased in 2012 for 40 years from four villagers, and the village committee approved the agreement. In 2017, the temple also obtained a license to operate a nursing home for elderly Buddhists, who lived there for free.
On the early morning of October 31, 2019, the temple and the nursing home were demolished for “illegally using the land” and “holding religious activities without approval.” According to an eyewitness, the local government dispatched over 100 people and an excavator for the job, while more government employees blocked the nearby intersection.
When over 30 government employees broke inside, the temple’s in-charge asked for their documentation. In reply, one of the officials violently snatched her phone and threatened to silence her with a towel if she continued to insist. The woman was forcibly dragged out of the temple, her clothes ripped, and one of her eyes injured. Four hours later, the temple and all its annexes were razed to the ground, debris covering all of its 13 Buddha statues and other valuables.
Videos: The Jingxin Temple is being demolished.
“Religion teaches us to be good people and do good deeds. The government does not tolerate anything righteous,” another elderly villager said. “These government officials are like a gang of bandits that need to be gotten rid of.”
Temple demolished after months of harassment
The Buddhist Fushou Temple, located in Xing’an county under the jurisdiction of Guilin city in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, was built over 400 years ago. Destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, it was rebuilt in 2016. The popular temple had more than 40 statues of Buddha.
On June 4, 2019, the county’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau issued an order to shut down the temple because “it was an illegal religious activity venue” built without approval. All religious activities were to be seized by the 15th of the month. All signboards and recognition plaques were also ordered to be removed.
Even after the temple was closed down, the government didn’t stop harassing it. On June 16, about 70 law enforcement officers, including the chief of the local police station, cordoned off the temple and removed all its Buddha statues. Ironically, before removing them, the officers summoned the temple’s monks to strike the bell, chant spells, and perform Buddhist rituals.
“In the past, bandits robbed people at night. Nowadays, bandits in police uniforms plunder in the daylight,” the person in charge of the temple could not hide the anger.
On December 12, about 100 local Public Security Bureau and police officers set up four checkpoints at the intersection in front of the Fushou Temple, to prevent people from approaching, as two excavators were brought in to demolish it.
According to a source familiar with the matter, the person in charge of the temple had repeatedly submitted applications for the religious activity venue registration certificate but was turned down every time.