Homeless and Penniless After Temple Demolitions

29 / 05 / 2019

Hubei authorities are intensifying their crackdown on Buddhism, destroying temples on trumped-up pretenses and leaving elderly owners without means to survive.

Cai Congxin

Hubei Province in east-central China has seen many sealed off and forcibly demolished temples in the past year. The owners of these temples as well as monks and nuns are driven out, not only inflicting spiritual damage on them but also leaving them homeless. The owners also face substantial financial losses. Bitter Winter continues to receive new reports daily, highlighting the survival crisis faced by Buddhists in China.

Paralyzed temple owner driven out

On March 1, Hongshan Temple (literally, Red Mountain Temple), located in Leigong town, administered by the county-level city of Anlu, was razed to the ground. The temple was built in 1997, at the cost of 70,000 RMB (about $ 10,000) paid by the temple’s owner, in addition to local villagers’ donations.

The temple has been the owner’s home for more than 20 years. In her late seventies, she has been unable to walk for three years due to illness, and she relies on others to take care of her. To make matters worse, last September, three local village officials came to Hongshan Temple and claimed that since it did not have a religious activity venue registration certificate, the temple must be demolished. Even if the owner applied for such a permit, the government wouldn’t approve it, the officials added and ordered the owner to move out.

The woman was unwilling to leave because she had nowhere to go. The authorities repeatedly put pressure on her, threatening to arrest the people who took care of her if they continued to come to the temple. Left alone, the owner endured unspeakable suffering.

Two months later, local government officials tried to expel the owner again, threatening to bury her under the rubble when an excavator would be brought in to demolish the temple. The village secretary and other officials destroyed various Buddhist items inside the temple, including incense burners, oil lamps, and a traditional percussion instrument used during rituals called “wooden fish.”

“Those are the things that I used for Buddhist memorial services. All of them have been smashed and destroyed. How will I support myself from now on? The government is forcing me down a dead-end road.” said the owner as she cried in despair.

In mid-November, personnel from the city’s Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs forcibly transferred the woman to another temple and demolished her temple three and a half months later.

Hongshan Temple is left in ruins.

Lifetime savings obliterated

On April 12, Pure Land Temple, located in Fuchang town, in the county-level city of Honghu under the jurisdiction of Hubei’s Jingzhou city, was demolished on the grounds that the government had already sold the temple’s land.

According to eyewitnesses, that morning, more than ten local government personnel and thugs, arrived at the temple. Police officers armed with electric batons and handcuffs cordoned off the area. Officers forcibly dragged a believer in her seventies out of the temple, warning that anyone who entered the temple would be arrested. Shortly after that, the temple was turned into a pile of ruins.

Local believers revealed that Pure Land Temple was built in 1996 with funding from villagers. The temple’s octogenarian owner has resided at the temple for 22 years. He invested his entire life’s savings of 200,000 RMB (about $ 29,000) in the temple.

Now that the temple has been demolished, the elderly man doesn’t know how he will live the rest of his life.

Pure Land Temple before and after the demolition.

Temple owner left with debts

On April 11, Guanyin Hall of a temple, located in Xingguo town, in Yangxin county, under the jurisdiction of Hubei’s Huangshi city, was demolished under the pretense that the land was needed for the development of roads.

Guanyin Hall before and after the demolition.

According to a believer who requested anonymity, on the day of the demolition, the president of the county’s China Buddhist Association invited the temple’s owner to “discuss things.” As soon as she left, more than 100 special police blocked off the intersections around Guanyin Hall and two excavators were directed to demolish the hall.

The heads of the demolished Guanyin statues were left on the ground.

When the temple’s owner returned and saw that Guanyin Hall was razed to the ground, she burst into tears.

Video: Excavators are dismantling Guanyin Hall.

The woman not only lost her home, but she still owes 30,000 RMB (about $ 4,300) in unpaid debts out of over 500,000 RMB (about $ 72,000) that she had spent to build the hall; now she has no income to repay it. After the demolition, she had to move into a small rented apartment.
Since the government didn’t provide any compensation for the demolished hall, the owner went to authorities for an explanation but was ignored. Intending to file a lawsuit, the owner talked a lawyer, who said that the demolition was a government action and that filing a lawsuit would be useless.



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