Local authorities in Henan shut down churches by blocking off the entrances and destroying church facilities.
The cries of the Christians at East Street Church in Sunfuji township, under the jurisdiction of Liangyuan district of Shangqiu city, in Central China’s Henan Province, emanated out onto the streets as they looked over their destroyed sanctuary. The podium was torn apart, the wooden planks dismantled. The floors were ripped up. And valuables—crosses, chairs, air conditioners, etc.,—looted.
That was on April 19, Good Friday—a holy day for all Christians.
Video: Believers knelt crying and praying in the church.
According to the church’s believers, they were issued a religious activity venue permit in 2011 by the Liangyuan district’s Religious Affairs Bureau, not only making it a legal Three-Self church, but granting them permission to congregate. But as is typically the case in Communist China, the authorities have gone back on their word. Since last August, the authorities have sought to forcibly shut down the church on the absurd grounds that the church is too close to the village committee building. Unwilling to compromise, the believers continued to meet at the church for services, sparking a months-long battle of wills between the CCP and the people.
And so, little by little, the authorities made their move. In early February, township government officials removed more than 20 benches and cushions from the church, moving them into the yard and burning them. They then blocked off the entrance to the church’s courtyard with bricks and cement, prohibiting believers from entering and holding gatherings.
Witnessing the government act so savagely, the church’s director and other believers tried to resolve the matter through legal means, filing a lawsuit against village- and township-level government officials. But government officials intimidated the lawyer hired by the church, threatening to revoke the lawyer’s qualifications. The lawyer didn’t dare to take on the case.
Seeing that their efforts to seek justice were going unrewarded, but also refusing to see the church being occupied by the government, the believers pushed down the blocked wall and commenced meetings again.
To the surprise of believers, in mid-April, the village’s CCP secretary hired people to dismantle the podium in the church. They also used an electric drill to demolish the flooring, then they blocked off the church’s entrance again.
During the same period, the doors and windows of a Three-Self Church meeting venue in Xiayi county’s Liji town were also blocked off by local village officials. And after another Three-Self church in Xiayi county was shut down, the local village Party secretary once again brought people to raid the church. They burned and destroyed all the items they found, including paintings of crosses, hymnbooks, spiritual books, and a donation box.
“These officials are just like bandits. They confiscated and burned everything,” an angry believer told Bitter Winter.
A document on religious work issued in Henan demands that “religious affairs management be incorporated into the job responsibilities and reward/punishment system of each village’s ‘two committees’ (i.e., the village Party branch committee and the village committee),” at all levels of command. The document states: “For those who are lax in performing their religious work duties or whose failure to exert themselves in carrying out the special campaign causes prolonged unresolved issues, serious accountability will be pursued in accordance with the law.”
In other words, under pressure from the government’s top brass, village officials suppress religious belief in order to protect their jobs.