The CCP claims that in each “area” of the province, one Three-Self church is enough. The others should be “donated” to the government, which will use them for secular purposes.
Government officials in Xinmi city, in central China’s Henan Province, are giving believers an utterly unreasonable choice: “donate” their churches to the government or see them demolished. Either way, the church becomes the property of the state.
“The church will either be demolished or donated. Those are the only two options. It’s your choice!” a government official told the director of a Three-Self church.
The church director told Bitter Winter that going to prison was preferable than betraying fellow church-goers.
“The money for building the church came in bit by bit from brothers and sisters who sold eggs. I would rather go to prison than sign my name to ‘donate’ the church. If I signed it, I couldn’t bear to face my brothers and sisters!” the director said.
And yet, government personnel have consistently pressured the director to sign the donation agreement, even going so far as to secretly investigate her family’s places of employment.
Since last September, this church has been shut down on the pretext of “being merged” with another community—another convenient excuse the CCP has invented to shut down religious venues.
“Donation” agreements from Three-Self churches across Henan Province obtained by Bitter Winter.
The government now claims that in each “area” of the province, there can be only one Three-Self church. These “areas” do not necessarily correspond to existing administrative units, but are arbitrarily designated by the government for the specific purpose of limiting the number of Three-Self churches.
Last year, at least eleven Three-Self churches in Xinmi city were shut down under the pretext of being “merged.” Government officials managed to get one church to be “donated” by having members of the congregation sign the agreement, illegal as that is, circumventing the church director. That’s because whatever the government decides is legal, is legal.
So the church was signed over and a new sign, which reads “Hekou Village Masses Cultural Activity Center,” was placed at the entrance.
Documents obtained by Bitter Winter and “donation” agreements from Three-Self churches in several parts of Henan Province confirm that the forced donation of churches, free-of-charge, has been widely implemented by the CCP.
A believer told Bitter Winter that at the end of last year, the local Two Chinese Christian Councils of Xiuwu county, under the jurisdiction of Jiaozuo city, held a meeting and announced that among the churches that have been “merged” and shut down, some of them can be sold, while the remainder must be “donated” to the government without compensation. In addition, officials at the meeting demanded that the Three-Self church directors in attendance cooperate with this work, on the grounds of “obeying the ruling authorities.”
Subsequently, multiple Three-Self churches in Jiaozuo city were “donated.”
This February, the Three-Self church located in Longdong village, Longdong township, under the jurisdiction of Jiaozuo city, was converted into a cultural center after being “donated.”
On April 25, the Longdong township government forcibly occupied a Three-Self church that had all the proper documentation and could accommodate 1,500 people, and moved entertainment equipment into the church.
The Three-Self church, located in Wa village, Xiuwu county, under the jurisdiction of Jiaozuo city, was also “donated free-of-charge.” Afterward, village officials rented it out at a high price.