Officials suppressed state-approved Protestant venues in Jiangxi Province using a variety of pretexts—for being “dilapidated” or “too eye-catching.”
by Wang Yong
On April 20, the government of Shangrao, a county in the prefecture-level city by the same name in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, demolished a Three-Self church because “it was unlicensed and dilapidated.” Local officials told the congregation that the order came from their higher-ups because “the government doesn’t allow belief in Jesus.”
A church member told Bitter Winter that before the demolition order was issued, officials from the city’s United Front Work Department and Religious Affairs Bureau came to the venue for an inspection and banned all gatherings.
“The officials said that the venue was dilapidated, even though wooden structures in the building were new, not collapsing at all,” the believer said. “The venue was registered with the Religious Affairs Bureau, but we were not given any compensation. It’s an obvious crackdown on Christianity, revealing the government’s aim to eliminate our faith.”
In early May, village officials destroyed the cross and a religious calendar in the home of the church preacher. Because he receives social benefits from the government, the officials told him that people on state aid “should not hold any religious beliefs.”
The congregation had to stop all gatherings after the demolition, only able to practice their faith separately at home. “The government arrests anyone in unauthorized religious gatherings,” another congregation member added. “When they find two or three of us meeting, they can charge us with any crime at will, saying that we are against the CCP.”
In April, the government of Qingshui township in the Guangxin district of Shangrao city shut down a Three-Self church, built with the money donated by the congregation, for being “unlicensed and too eye-catching.” Officials destroyed religious symbols inside the church and pasted a closure notice at the entrance.
In early May, village officials converted the church into an activity center for the elderly, placing inside a ping-pong table, Chinese chess boards, and books.
“The government did not offer a penny for the rent,” a church member explained. “If we refused to turn it into an activity center, the building would be demolished. We must comply with orders and can do nothing about it.”
“Because many Christians support Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, the government continues suppressing believers on the mainland and in Hong Kong, fearing that they will unite against it,” the believer added. He explained that the government is closing down churches that don’t have a religious activity venue registration certificate, even though Three-Self churches were allowed to function without it for years. Authorities throughout the country are using this as a pretext to crack down on places of worship.
On May 28, the government of Xubu town, administered by Duchang county in the prefecture-level city of Jiujiang, shut down a Three-Self church venue because it was “too close to the village committee.” The place of worship was built over 30 years ago and had all the required documentation. Bibles and hymnbooks were confiscated, and the venue’s cross was demolished. Five days later, the site was converted into a “Party Members’ Activity Center,” and national flags were raised, propaganda posters displayed inside it.