Believers in China are subjected to even fiercer crackdowns, as the regime increases “stability control” to offset the effects of the pro-democracy movement.
by Tang Zhe
Many Christians took to the streets to help and support Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests and denounce police violence against demonstrators. Like the protestors, people of faith are regarded by the CCP as a hostile force endangering its regime. To curb the spirit of democracy from spreading to the mainland, authorities have been increasing suppression and control measures on the domains deemed “unstable,” including religious groups that bear a heavy brunt. Even the state-run Three-Self Church is suppressed.
Venue permits confiscated
When the person in charge of a Three-Shelf church in Anyuan county under the jurisdiction of Ganzhou city in the southwestern province of Jiangxi came to the local Religious Affairs Bureau to renew the church permit on October 28, he was informed that he could not do that. “It was decided at a meeting yesterday that all religious meetings should be banned and churches must be shut down,” a Bureau official told the believer. He explained that many Christians had been involved in Hong Kong “riots,” and because Christianity has been brought to China from the West, the authorities are afraid that people of faith in mainland China may have contacts with believers in Hong Kong and the United States.
In late October, the local government confiscated the religious activity venue registration certificate from a Three-Self church in the county’s Kongtian town. A notice demanding to suspend all meetings was subsequently posted at the entrance to the church.
Citing the requirement to re-verify their certificates, local officials did the same to three more Three-Self churches in Tianxin, Fengshan, and Chetou towns in the county.
In late October, a True Jesus Church in Yuanjiang city in the central province of Hunan, which had all official certificates, suffered the same fate. The head of a local police station told the church leader that since the church is headquartered in the United States, the US government might instigate the congregation to go against the Chinese state, as the US-China relations are strained now. Taking Hong Kong as an example, he said the government takes strict measures to put all churches under tight control.
Government-hired workers then forcibly removed the words “True Jesus Church” from the outside wall of the meeting venue. Officials warned believers not to contact the church’s headquarters in the US.
On October 29, personnel from the Religious Affairs Bureau in Wuning county under the jurisdiction of Jiangxi’s Jiujiang city raided the meeting venue of a local Three-Self church. They destroyed its cross, removed the words “Christian Church” from the wall, and took down all religious symbols, reasoning that this is being done because Christians in Hong Kong were involved in the “riots.” After the raid, a Chinese national flag was placed on the church roof.
Believers barred from going to Hong Kong
To ensure that people of faith in mainland China are not affected by the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong through religious communication, believers who have Hong Kong-Macau travel passes are also subjected to strict government control.
In late August, the police detained a pastor from a house church in Xiangyang city in the central province of Hubei. According to a source familiar with the matter, the reason behind his arrest was that he was considered to be associating with protestors in Hong Kong because he possesses a Hong Kong-Macau travel pass, and he had been to Hong Kong to attend a religious assembly. A member of his family went to visit him but was refused. She is worried about her relative’s health.
At the end of September, a preacher and the person in charge of a house church in Jiangxi’s Ganzhou city were summoned by the National Security Bureau. Officials ordered them to sign a statement promising not to go to Hong Kong, then confiscated their Hong Kong-Macau travel passes.
Two house church believers from Xuzhou city in the eastern province of Jiangsu applied for the Hong Kong-Macau travel pass, planning to go to Hong Kong for sermons during the National Day – the 70th anniversary of Communist China. The police threatened that they would lose their welfare benefits as soon as they leave for Hong Kong. “At the worst, you’ll go to prison,” the police officers warned, reiterating that traveling to Hong Kong amounted to going against the Communist Party, and those who do so are deemed as “anti-China forces.”