Even religious venues that are managed by the government come under severe persecution, the CCP aiming to weaken Christianity and eradicate it eventually.
by Wang Yichi
Henan Province in central China, home to a large number of Christians, is one of the main targets of the CCP’s religious persecutions. In August 2018 alone, 56 venues of the government-run Three-Self Church were shut down in Xinmi, a county-level city administered by Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan. In 2019, the government forcibly demolished some of the previously closed down venues or repurposed them for other use. Congregations are often pressured to “donate” their churches to the government.
Most of the shut meeting venues in Xinmi were built with the funds raised by believers, the cost of each ranging from 200,000 RMB (about $ 28,000) up to 3 million RMB (about $ 426,000). The total amount spent to build 37 of the 56 closed down venues amounted to 13 million RMB (about $ 1.84 million).
According to a local believer, the 56 closed down places of worship grew between 2015 to 2017, when the provincial government promoted the policy of putting the privately set up Christian venues under the management of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Xinmi was chosen as a trial city to launch the strategy.
Before the policy was enacted, the venues didn’t meet the requirements for legal registration. But as soon as they came under the management of the state-run organization, the Religious Affairs Bureau approved them and issued all required certificates. Since then, each venue was directly administered by Three-Self churches in the area they had been assigned to. As other state-run religious organizations in China, the venues had to introduce membership rolls for the congregation, keep an activity record book, and its personnel, size, and frequency of meetings came under strict control.
Since the new Regulations on Religious Affairs came into force in February 2018, even religious venues already controlled by the CCP are being attacked because the regime believes that their existence threatens its dominance. Christians believe that the government is trying to shut down all religious venues, regardless of who manages them, aiming to weaken Christianity and gradually eradicate it.
Xinmi’s Two Chinese Christian Councils spent two million RMB (about $ 280,000), donated by local believers, to buy the premises for Zhoulou Church in 2015. An additional one million RMB (about $ 140,000) was spent on decorations and equipment in the church, the total amounting to three million RMB (about $ 420,000). But recently, the local authorities forcibly sold the church to the village committee at a low price.
The meeting venues in Mazhai and Shipokou villages, administered by Xinmi, were built at the cost of 400,000 RMB (about $ 56,000) and 240,000 RMB (about $ 34,000), respectively. Both meeting venues were forced to sign donation agreements, transferring the rights to the government, which now uses the premises for CCP-related activities.
Caomiao Church in Xinmi was built with donations from believers – 200,000 RMB (about $ 28,000) in total. On August 25, 2018, the church was forcibly closed and converted into a cultural club. Some other churches in the city are rented to businesses and used as a warehouse
Protestant meeting venues in Nanyang, a prefecture-level city in Henan, have also been subjected to severe suppression. In the Nanyang-administered counties of Xichuan and Tanghe, to date, 95 meeting venues have been shut down, while in the county-level city of Dengzhou – 141.
A government official from Xichuan county warned local believers that the state is carrying out ruthless suppressions against people of faith across China since “they outnumber members of the Chinese Communist Party.”