In Lushan county, Henan, one Niu Guobao organized a meeting to pray and sing hymns. Now, he has to pay a fine of 160,000 yuan.
by Daniela Bovolenta
Speaking of expensive Christmas gatherings, one took place in the unlikely location of Huang Zhang Liang village in Lushan county, Henan. It was, admittedly, a large gathering for the village. One Niu Guobao gathered more than forty Christians, including twenty children, to pray and sing hymns.
Little did Niu realize that he was committing a number of crimes at the same time, and the penalty will be huge. The police raided the home and told Niu that, first of all, he had organized an illegal religious gathering under Article 71 of the Regulation of Religious Affairs. They suspected he had not been authorized by any Three-Self church but, even if he had, Christmas gatherings this year were submitted to ten or more different levels of authorizations, which Niu did not obtain.
Niu had also involved minors in religious activities, which is totally forbidden in China, even when meetings are otherwise authorized: crime number two. And the police found Christian calendars for the year 2021 and other unauthorized religious books Niu planned to distribute: crime number 3.
Niu learned that crime does not pay when last week, less than one month after the event, he had to appear before the Lushan County Religious Affairs Bureau, and was fined 160,000 yuan (i.e., US $ 24,693, or Euro 20,282), an astronomical sum for a villager.
This money will remain with the local Religious Affairs Bureau, a kind of governmental agency that is often in need of cash. Heavy fines are not only imposed to terrorize religious dissidents, but are also a way to finance the bureaucrats.