As other venues started reopening after the coronavirus lockdown, places of worship remained closed in China. Some never opened—they were destroyed instead.
by Li Guang
The Three-Self Tianmen Church was built 20 years ago in the Jianxi district of Luoyang, a prefecture-level city in the central province of Henan. The place of worship, which had over 1,300 registered congregation members, was demolished on May 31.
At 5 a.m. that morning, government personnel broke the lock to the church and removed all items from it. The area around the church was barricaded off, and six checkpoints were set up, preventing anyone from approaching. Over 100 people took part in the demolition.
“The state’s support to Three-Self churches is nominal: they only want to control, shut, or demolish them, while lying to everyone about religious liberties in China,” a congregation member, in his 70s, told Bitter Winter. “They do wicked deeds under the banner of virtue. Churches are persecuted everywhere.”
Video: The Tianmen Church is being demolished.
Another congregation member said that the local government destroyed the church and its annex buildings to give way for the construction of a canal and a road. In the afternoon of May 28, the congregation received a “notice on the demolition of illegal constructions” with orders to demolish the church themselves by the next day. Hoping to save the church, the church director appealed to the district’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau, explaining that the church had all required government permissions. He hoped the Bureau to act as a mediator, but his appeal didn’t help save the church.
“They could have avoided the demolition, but a deviation for the canal was made on purpose, to make sure that the church had to be demolished,” a local man commented.
Congregation members tried to stop or at least film the forced demolition, but the police and officials intercepted them. The director and two congregation members were taken to a local police station.
“Where will we hold worship services?” a congregation member asked in tears. “It feels worse than seeing my house being demolished. It’s heartbreaking!”
The Bethel Church, another Three-Self church in the Jianxi district, was demolished at 10 p.m. on May 28 on the pretext of “road construction.”
“After the coronavirus lockdown has been lifted, all industries returned to work, and we were expecting the church to reopen for services. But it was demolished instead,” a church member said. “This is forcing us, believers, to a dead end.”