Buddhist and Taoist places of worship fall victim to the government’s religion suppression crackdowns, which they execute on trumped-up pretexts.
by Lin Yijiang
On July 16, more than 100 government officials gathered outside a Taoist temple in Wenling, a county-level city administered by the prefecture-level city of Taizhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang. They drove away all believers from the temple and prohibited anyone from entering it. Shortly afterward, on orders by the officials, two excavators razed the temple to the ground.
According to a congregation member, the temple, built in 2012 at the cost of over two million RMB (around $ 280,000), which believers were painstakingly collecting for almost ten years, was demolished as part of the Zhejiang government’s “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign. Intended to “rectify old residential areas, old factories, and remaining rural villages within cities, and demolish illegal buildings,” the drive was launched in 2013. Since then, hundreds of churches and temples have been destroyed in the area; crosses from over 1,700 churches were removed in 2014 and 2015 alone.
Guanyin Temple, a Buddhist temple in Wenling, was also forcibly demolished by the government on the grounds that it was “illegally built.” On July 2, the town government dispatched more than 100 personnel to chase dozens of believers from the temple and ordered two excavators to start the demolition. In just a few hours, this once flourishing temple was reduced to a pile of ruins.
A local believer told Bitter Winter that the government’s frenzied demolitions of Buddhist and Taoist temples are reminiscent of the campaign to destroy the “Four Olds” – old customs, culture, habits, and ideas – implemented during the Cultural Revolution. “Reciting Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong and worshipping him was mandatory during the Cultural Revolution,” the believer commented. “Just like now, people are demanded to recite Xi Jinping quotes and revere him.”
At the end of June, a Buddhist temple under construction in Tiantai county under the jurisdiction of Taizhou was also forcibly demolished. According to a local believer, the government first labeled the temple as a “dilapidated building” and sealed it off, and later refused to approve the newly constructed temple, thereby making it an “illegal construction.”
On July 19, a Taoist temple, built at the cost of 500,000 RMB (around $ 70,000) raised by believers in Yuhuan, a county-level city administered by Taizhou, was razed to the ground, too.
A believer from Taizhou remarked that the government only cares about implementing tits policies to suppress religion. “It doesn’t care how much money is spent to build the temple or how much believers are harmed,” he added. “They demolish temples under the formal pretext that they were ‘illegally built,’ to avoid being accused of religious persecution.”