Authorities in Zhejiang Province prohibited holy names and religious terms on boats, ordering their owners to paint them over.
In June 2018, the Fishery Administration Station in Songmen, Wenling city, Zhejiang Province was ordered to refer boats marked with religious language to investigation for non-compliance. Since then, ships with holy names are impounded and not permitted to go out to sea. Wenling city is reported to have issued a document 2018 Focus of Inspections of Fishing Vessels in the Wenling Area, Article 14 of which “Use of Religious Language” targets explicitly religious belief.
In the morning of June 15, two inspectors from the Songmen Fishery Administration Station in Wenling arrived at a boatyard in Shitang town to inspect fishing vessels. During the inspection, they pointed out that the word “love” on one of the boats’ exhaust funnels constituted religious language, and immediately forced the boat’s owner to paint it over on the grounds of non-compliance.
As revealed by a worker at the boatyard, local government representatives telephoned the head of the boatyard at the beginning of June demanding to stop using religious language on boats. The officials stressed that Chinese people were not permitted to believe in the religions of foreigners; they must only believe in the Chinese Communist Party, not the Lord or God. “Only phrases such as ‘joy and safety,’ ‘safety and security,’ and ‘plain sailing’ may be written on boats. Words and phrases like ‘Glory to the Lord,’ ‘Emmanuel,’ ‘Love,’ and ‘God’ may not, and should be painted over.”
Commenting on the situation, the head of the boatyard said with a profound sense of helplessness, “You have to do whatever the government says. There’s no use in trying to reason with them!”
One boat owner revealed that every fisher hopes for safety and blessings, so they usually write their dreams and wishes on the most visible place of the cockpit. Non-believers write things like “Plain sailing” and “Prosperity”; those who do believe tend to write words with religious connotations hoping to receive God’s blessing and protection, and to express their praise and thanks to God. “There won’t be any more religious phrases like these in the future. Now the government’s persecution of religious faith has even extended to fishing boats. The Constitution talks of the freedom of belief—but that’s just crying up wine and selling vinegar,” said the boat owner
It is understood that the religious language on all local fishing boats has been gradually painted over or altered.
Reported by Lin Yijiang