“Promoting religious belief or using religious words is not allowed in public places,” is the party line in China’s central province of Henan.
Christianity has taken a massive hit in Henan. Not only nearly 7,000 crosses have been recently dismantled, but church and meeting venues of all sizes were sealed off or demolished. The Chinese Communist Party is also focusing on shops and businesses.
On the afternoon of August 31, 2018, at a shop called “Canaan Creative Art Studio” in Tongxu county, under the jurisdiction of Kaifeng city, an officer from the Bureau for Industry and Commerce forced the shop owner to remove the Chinese characters for “Canaan” – the Biblical Promised Land – from the signboard; he also demanded the removal of all indoor decorations containing the characters for “Canaan.”
According to sources, officials from the local Bureau for Industry and Commerce previously told the shop owner to remove the two Chinese characters for “Canaan” from the signboard on the grounds that religious beliefs and symbols “cannot be promoted in public places.” The officials said that municipal authorities would come for an inspection and that before the entire signboard is replaced any words with religious connotations must be covered up. So, the shop owner used two red flags to conceal the characters for “Canaan.”
Advertisements for “Canaan Creative Art Studio” on streetcars were also torn off.
This is not an isolated incident. On the same street as the art studio, there is “Canaan Dance Studio.” The Bureau for Industry and Commerce sent personnel there to remove the “sensitive” word as well. Since the sign was both in English – “J-N Dance” (“J” and “N” signifying the first letters in the word Jiā nán – Hanyu pinyin romanization of the Chinese characters for “Canaan”) – and Chinese “Canaan Dance Studio,” the signboard has been modified, leaving only Chinese characters for “Dance Studio.”
“This isn’t only happening in the city. It’s the same in villages. Any phrases with religious connotations cannot be used, regardless of whether it’s English words or Chinese characters,” one nearby resident said.
Reported by Wang Yichi