This year alone, multiple Protestant Three-Self churches in Henan have been closed down or demolished entirely. Many of those that have managed to survive, have been turned into places for things other than worship.
While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is persecuting Christians acrossChina daily, the central province of Henan seems to be a zone of special interest, a place where the persecution is particularly harsh, even on government-approved churches.
According to believers, outside of the church, the local government erected a national flag. Inside, they hung up party propaganda, nailing in large Chinese characters words that translate to: “Extol the Party’s Kindness,Follow the Party.” To give authenticity to the fact that the church is now a government-sanctioned activity center for seniors, two tables and eight chairs were set up, each with Chinese chess, Chinese checkers, and playing cards.
Apparently, government officials told the villagers that the church “from now on” is an entertainment club.
Over in Bidian town, Tanghe county, Nanyang city, government officials cleared out another local Three-Self church and turned it into an activity center, placing inside it various forms of entertainment, like a mahjongg table, a chess table and, as before, hanging a sign declaring it a“recreational activity center.”
And the hits keep on coming.
In August, a Three-Self church in Zhangyang village of Wangdian township was shuttered on the grounds that it was a “dilapidated building.” Then, two months later, the local government converted the church into a net-knitting factory and filled it with 30 workers, even though the building was, allegedly, uninhabitable. It’s been a government building ever since.
But these folks aren’t alone. In Dahetun town, Tanghe county, one church was converted into an electronics factory while another one — a shoe factory.The Pangzhuang Church in Shunhe town, Yongcheng city, was cordoned off, the church’s cross demolished and, two months later, turned into a clothing factory called Xinyibo; the government was able to rent out the church-turned-factory at a rate of 4,000 RMB (about 580 USD) a year.
Meanwhile, a church in Xiaodingzhuang village, Minquan county, Shangqiu city, was converted into the “Red and White Council of Xiaodingzhuang Village, Huayuan Township.” In China, organizations that take care of marriage ceremonies or funerals are called the “Red and White Council” (red is a traditionally symbolic color of happiness and joy, while white is the color of mourning).
In Mengcun village, Wuzhi county, Jiaozuo city, the church was forcibly closed down by local government personnel. The church’s cross and other religious symbols were dismantled, the sanctuary was emptied and the valuables were stolen. Adding insult to injury, local officials then hung three signs at the church’s entrance, including one that read: “Branch Committee of theChinese Communist Party in Mengcun Village, Qiaomiao Town, Wuzhi County.”
And after a Three-Self church at Jiayingguan township in Wuzhi county was sealed off, a village official forced the person in charge of the church to sign an agreement donating the church to the government without compensation.
Bitter Winter has previously reported that an over40-year-old church in Henan’s Yucheng county and a Three-Selfchurch at Shangqiu city’s Chenlou village were both sealed off and emptied out by the authorities. The churches were converted into an electronics factory and a “poverty assistance workshop,” respectively.
If anything is clear, it’s that the authorities will (and do) use all kinds of methods to eradicate religious belief. As one believer said: “The national constitution provides for freedom of belief, but what freedom do we, the common people, have? The Communist Party doesn’t do anything about fraudulent activities or people leading lives of debauchery. All they do is interfere with people’s belief in God.”
Reported by Jiang Tao