Motivated by a visiting central government dignitary, local authorities in Henan are taking “religious work” to the new level. Anything to please the Party.
On April 15-17, Wang Yang, the chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and a member of the Standing Committee of the CCP visited the central province of Henan for a three-day religious work inspection tour. During the visit, Mr. Wang stressed the need to enhance political work on the grassroots level, encouraging those in charge of religious work to combat “illegal activities vigorously.”
Local government officials of Baisha village under the jurisdiction of Zhengzhou city took action immediately: In just four days, they demolished four temples.
The owner of the Buddhist Deshan Temple was ordered to destroy his temple on April 16. Local officials posted on the temple door a demolition notice: “Illegal religious activity venue with substandard fire control measures.” The owner was warned that if he refused to move out all the belongings and destroy the temple himself, the authorities would take care of it. The officials added that “burning incense and worshipping Buddha is superstitious, and tantamount to not believing in the Communist Party.” Personnel were sent to watch over the temple day and night, prohibiting worshippers from entering it.
“Demolishing the temple is an order from the central government. You’re not allowed to believe anymore,” one official said when the temple owner asked to explain the reasons for the demolition. “Your Buddhist statues mustn’t be seen in Zhengzhou city!”
The temple was demolished four days later after the workforce of over 100 drove cranes, trucks, and excavators to do the job. The police cordoned off the temple and didn’t allow anyone to enter it; nearby residents were even prohibited from leaving their homes. The owner was kept in police custody during the demolition and released only after the temple that cost him over 500,000 RMB (about $ 74,000) was reduced to a pile of ruins.
“This was our home, but we can’t take charge of it. The government is still following the path of Mao Zedong, demolishing temples and destroying Buddhist statues. There is no religious freedom at all!” one believer said helplessly.
The Taoist Zumu Temple nearby was built in 2016 at the cost of over 300,000 RMB (about $ 44,300). Hoping to save it from government’s persecution, the owners have installed a Mao Zedong statue at the temple. This did not help. To clear way for the destruction, the police chased away worshippers and took the temple’s owner to the police station, releasing him only after the temple had been entirely demolished.
The village’s two other Taoist temples were next in line: Laonai Temple, built 13 years ago at the cost of over 500,000 RMB (about $ 74,000) was demolished on the evening of April 17 and Yanjun Temple – on the 20th.
According to sources, to date, no financial compensations have been provided to the owners for their destroyed property.