Even during the coronavirus outbreak, the CCP continued crackdowns on places of worship, turning them into entertainment venues and destroying Buddhist icons.
by Li Changshan
According to a civil servant from Linzhou, a county-level city in the central province of Henan, the government of Yuankang, one of the towns in the jurisdiction, convened officials from subordinate villages for a meeting in early December last year. The participants were ordered to crack down on Buddhist places of worship: shut down all small temples and convert large ones into elderly entertainment venues.
“The Communist Party doesn’t allow people to have religious beliefs, they stringently inspect everyone’s religious status,” the civil servant added. “It aims at controlling people’s ideology, fearing that no one will follow the Communist Party if all convert to Buddhism.”
As per preliminary information, by mid-April, at least nine large temples throughout Linzhou have been repurposed for activity centers. “Xi Jinping doesn’t allow to worship Buddha, he tells people to believe in the Communist Party instead,” a local Buddhist said.
On April 18, over 20 Linzhou city government personnel came to Dongjie village to inspect the conversion of the Jingquan Temple, built during the Zhengguan period (627–649) of the Tang dynasty (618-907). The main hall has been transformed into an activity room for the elderly, and a sign “Happy family” was posted at the entrance. Tables, chairs, Chinese chess boards, and toys for children now fill the room. Another hall in the former temple has been turned into a library.
Before the conversion, government laborers forcibly smashed Buddhist statues and looted all valuables, claiming that “no Buddhist temples or statues are allowed within 30 meters from the road.”
On February 20, the Yunzhong Temple, built over 200 years ago in Linzhou-administered Huanghua town, was repurposed on orders from the local government because it was “not harmonious with the surrounding environment and negatively affected the town’s image.”
All Buddhist statues were smashed, and slogans promoting the core socialist values have been hung outside the temple, replacing the temple’s signboard with the name of a new cultural activity center—“Peach Orchard Relay Station.”
On March 29, the Canglong Temple in Beiguan village in Linzhou’s Kaiyuan district had its signboard painted over, and all halls were converted into reading and activity rooms, where books and Chinese chess boards were assembled.
As Bitter Winter has reported extensively, last year, numerous Buddhist temples throughout China were demolished or repurposed, statues of deities removed, concealed, or modified.
On November 8, ahead of the central supervision team’s inspection, the government of Jimo, a district of Qingdao city in the eastern province of Shandong, ordered to hide a 16-meter-tall Maitreya statue in the Zaohang Park by building an artificial mountain around it.
A district resident revealed that the statue had been covered up four times before on orders from the government. “The Communist Party is suppressing the Maitreya Buddha, and it cannot see the light. But we can’t do anything about it,” the man said helplessly.
In mid-October, an outdoor Earth Store Bodhisattva statue in the Pufa Temple, located in Weichang Manchu and Mongol Autonomous County, administered by Chengde city in the northern province of Hebei, was dismembered and later removed. It was built at the cost of about 200,000 RMB (about $ 28,000), funded by local Buddhists.
“The government repeatedly forced the temple’s in-charge to remove the statue, claiming that this was part of a national campaign,” a local source told Bitter Winter. “They even threatened to arrest him if he resisted. It’s just a resurgence of the Cultural Revolution when people were accused of ‘opposing the state’ and ‘resisting the Communist Party’ if they did not follow the government’s demolition orders.”