Source: Direct Reports from China
Date: June 19, 2018
A senior Chinese Communist Party Official in the city of Zhoukou, Henan Province organized offenders serving their sentence outside of prison to go to a Three-Self Protestant church and beat up believers, intimidating them to give up their faith. Three-Self churches belong to the official government-controlled Protestant organization in China, but this does not always save them from harassment and persecution.
Around 9:00 a.m. on April 23, 2018, Sun Wenhua, director of Zhoukou’s Department of Justice, took two police officers and 17 offenders serving time outside of prison to force their way into a church in the Nanjiao township. The director yelled at the believers who were in the church, “I have told you before that you’re not allowed to hold religious gatherings, so why are you doing it again?” He then ordered the offenders to ask each believer about their faith. “Let them go if they say they give up their faith and beat the ones who say they will continue to believe,” ordered Sun Wenhua. The offenders blocked the doors and started interrogating the believers, one by one.
A 70-year-old believer asked if the Constitution did not guarantee the freedom of belief, to which the director replied angrily, “Freedom? The Party doesn’t allow to believe in God, don’t you know that? Beat him!” One of the offenders came forward and grabbed the man’s arms while another viciously slapped him, blood running from the corners of his mouth. Members of the congregation, furious with such violent behavior, reproached the director and the police officers saying, “Why are you beating people up? You are with a law enforcement agency. Don’t you know that it’s illegal to beat people up?” The director barked at them that the Party is the law and not believing in the Party is illegal.
A village official, Wang Baicheng, entered the church at that moment. Having learned what was going on, he sided with the director, saying, “You people deserve this! Sue them if you think it’s unfair!”
Witnessing the abuse and violence from the hands of law enforcement and Party officials, believers felt helpless. As one of them remarked after the incident, “The Chinese Communist Party is a regime of rogues, a bunch of bandits! Since Xi Jinping came to power, religious persecution has been increasing: now they just brake into churches and beat up believers. It’s another Cultural Revolution!”
Bitter Winter reports on how religions are allowed, or not allowed, to operate in China and how some are severely persecuted after they are labeled as “xie jiao,” or heterodox teachings. We publish news difficult to find elsewhere, analyses, and debates.
Placed under the editorship of Massimo Introvigne, one of the most well-known scholars of religion internationally, “Bitter Winter” is a cooperative enterprise by scholars, human rights activists, and members of religious organizations persecuted in China (some of them have elected, for obvious reasons, to remain anonymous).