Believers in Henan were unable to attend Sunday service at Protestant churches because of the shutdowns.
In Henan’s Xinzheng city, five churches that belong to the government-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement were targeted for shut down or removal of church crosses within a week.
It started with churches in villages of Zhenglaozhuang and Xixu that had their crosses removed on August 23.
Three days later, church service was being held at the Xiaoqiao village Three-Self church. It was a Sunday and believers were expected to pour in from 7 am. However, they found paths leading up to the church being guarded by nearly 150 police officers that morning. Another 50 officers guarded the church.
The church had had its cross removed days ago and so seeing the police again made believers upset. When one asked about the reason for the shut down, he was told that the roads leading to the church were too narrow and in event of fire emergency, the trucks won’t be able to make their way inside. Realizing it to be ruse, the believer started shouting that he had a right to believe in God. The officer hit him in response.
The same day, churches in Weizhuang and Zhanggou were shut down while Sunday service was still in progress. Believers were threatened against showing up at the churches again.
Two days later, the officials returned to churches in Zhenglaozhuang and Xixu to install Chinese flags in the premises. They also recorded personal information of all believers who attended these churches.
Reported by Jiang Tao
Jiang Tao (uses pseudonyms for security reasons), aged 42, is from Henan Province. He previously served as a magazine editor and has long been concerned about vulnerable groups that are being persecuted in China. He has written a variety of commentaries probing human rights issues in China, and his articles have been published in international journals. After leaving his magazine job in 2015, he started visiting and interviewing persecuted religious groups and other vulnerable groups and gathering information about incidents. He joined Bitter Winter in 2018, and since then is dedicated to reporting the persecution incidents in Henan, Shanghai, Anhui, and other regions.