Four years ago, authorities in Zhejiang’s Wenzhou tried to demolish a church by force.
In April 2014, the Religious Affairs Bureau of Taishun county in Wenzhou city ordered Yayang Church’s leaders to dismantle the cross and part of the church building on the grounds of “illegal construction.”
However, the leaders refused to do that, and to prevent a forced demolition, hundreds of believers came to the church every day to guard the premises.
To drive out the believers, authorities cut off the church’s water supply and installed numerous surveillance cameras to monitor the believers. Meanwhile, Hu Xiaodong, the Political and Legal Committee secretary, mobilized wealthy and influential members of society to persuade the church’s leaders to cooperate with the government’s demolition, but to no avail.
A believer, who was a railway station manager, was also threatened that he would be fired from his job if he did not cooperate with the government. The Bureau of Religious Affairs further threatened other believers, saying that their license plate numbers had been recorded and no matter where they went, that they would be punished severely. However, nothing worked, and the believers continued to stand with the church’s administration.
In August that year, believers from other areas such as Pingyang, Cangnan, Fuding, and more arrived in Yayang too in a show of solidarity with the church. More than 500 believers now stood against the local authorities.
Next month, the authorities posted a notice, stamped with 53 official seals, regarding the church’s cross demolition across the Yayang village.
When days later, the authorities tried to capture a believer, Wang Zhenghai (pseudonym), other believers caught a note of it immediately and came to his rescue. After that, the government decided to form a task force known as “9/25” to arrest the believers who had helped Mr. Wang flee that evening. The task force was named after the date that day, 25th September.
Within the next two days, three of those believers, Liu Lianjie, Zhou Yi, and Li Meng (all names are pseudonyms), were taken into detention and kept for over a month.
When the authorities made their first attempt at demolition, it failed. As a result, they issued warrants to arrest several believers, and that led to a large-scale confrontation. Under pressure from the international community, the authorities had to abandon the demolition plan but continued to arrest believers.
For instance, the 70-year-old Wei Jian (pseudonym) had just been discharged from the hospital following an illness when the Public Security Bureau arrested him. He was detained for over three months.
Four others; Wei Qian, Mu Yi, Wu Cheng and Yang Wei (all names are pseudonyms), were also detained and held in secret for a month.
While the believers ultimately succeeded and managed to save the Yayang church, they had to sacrifice their freedom to pay the price of it.
Reported by Lin Yijiang
(All photos are from the Internet)