People of faith, Buddhists and Christians alike, are not allowed to celebrate life’s most significant moments according to religious traditions and rites.
by Han Sheng
For Chinese Buddhists, Taoists, and folk religion practitioners, reciting sutras for the dead is an essential part of death rites. The communist regime, however, regards this tradition as a “feudal superstitious activity.”
A lay Buddhist in the northeastern province of Liaoning was arrested for reciting sutras for the dead at home twice, in April and June, and was charged with “privately setting up a religious venue.”
After the second arrest, in late June, government officials hired nearly 80 personnel to demolish the man’s home, where local Buddhists gathered to chant after their loved ones passed away. Police officers also confiscated all Buddhist items in the house before the demolition.
“I just wanted to help people,” the Buddhist said sadly, explaining why he invited people to his home to chant.
Christian funerals and weddings are also suppressed. A Three-Self Church clergy member from Fengqiu county, administered by the prefecture-level city of Xinxiang in the central province of Henan, told Bitter Winter that the Two Chinese Christian Councils issued new regulations on religious weddings and funerals in May last year. The order bans religious weddings and funerals to be held in public and private places and prohibits church choirs and musicians from attending religious activities outside their venues, including weddings and funerals, without the permission of the local Two Chinese Christian Councils. If regulations are violated, church clergy and congregation members in question will be held accountable.
A Christian from the county recounted how local authorities banned a young Christian couple from having their church choir and musicians during their wedding on October 1, the National Day in China, last year.
Similar regulations have been implemented in other areas of Henan Province.
On August 27, the police harassed the funeral of a 73-year-old house church member in Xinye county, administered by the prefecture-level city of Nanyang. A dozen police officers in cars and on motorcycles blocked the funeral procession, led by a family member carrying a cross, on the way to the cemetery. They seized the colorful flags with Bible verses from believers in the procession and detained some of them, while others ran away. The officers declared that religious funerals were forbidden and took photos of the arrested and registered their ID information before letting them go.
In August, a Christian family in Anyang city invited their church choir and musicians to sing hymns at a deceased family member’s funeral. When local government officials heard about this, they threatened to arrest any church member who came to the funeral. Not a single congregation member dared to go.
On May 8, authorities penalized a Three-Self church in Anyang-administered Hua county for allowing its choir and musicians to attend a congregation member’s wedding. Officials harshly rebuked the church director and ordered to close the church for a month.
A nonagenarian Christian from Yanshi city, administered by the prefecture-level city of Luoyang, repeatedly asked her family to organize a Christian funeral for her after she dies. But the family could not honor the woman’s wish, afraid of repercussions from the government.
“My mom believed in the Lord all her life, but we could not fulfill her dying wish,” the woman’s daughter wept, still feeling indebted to her mother.
“Government officials said that funerals could be held in any other way, but not religious,” a Christian from Xinyang city told Bitter Winter. “They don’t even allow crosses and church choirs in funerals.”
Many Christians from Ezhou city in the central province of Hubei also reported that they had been prevented from holding religious funerals for deceased family members.
In August, a pastor and over ten members of a Three-Self church went to a funeral for an elderly congregant. Dressed in white and holding white flags—a tradition during funerals in China—they sang hymns by the coffin, as local officials stormed in and dispersed the believers.
“We did not dare to disobey, knowing that churches had been demolished for opposing the government,” the pastor explained. He was banned from attending another congregation member’s funeral in January.
“According to several government policies, people are not allowed to have religious wedding and funeral ceremonies,” an Ezhou city government employee explained. “This requirement is particularly applied to CCP members and their families. Since the implementation of these policies is rigorously controlled, local officials will be implicated and may even be dismissed if they fail to stop a religious wedding or funeral.”