Since the control over believers has become one of the main tasks for local authorities, their work is closely monitored and evaluated.
The central government is pressuring county, town, and village authorities to increase their efforts in eradicating religions by making each functionary in charge sign “religious work responsibility statements.” Those who are not thorough and resolute enough will be punished.
No crosses on graves or at home allowed
The Sanmenxia city authorities in the central province of Henan issued a document, demanding 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 that “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.”
On February 20, officials from Yinghao town, under the administration of Mianchi county in Sanmenxia, inspected religious work in areas under its jurisdiction. When passing through Zhuangping village, they found a cross on a grave. They also found a Christian couplet that hadn’t been torn down at one villager’s home. The town’s mayor was furious and fined three people (including the village Party secretary) each 500 RMB (nearly $ 75) for “harboring religion.”
Shortly afterward, town government officials found a Christian couplet posted on a villager’s home in Sizhuang village. The village official in charge was fined 2,000 RMB (about $ 295), the village Party secretary – 800 RMB (nearly $ 75), and the director of the supervisory committee for village affairs – 200 RMB (about $ 30).
A Christian couplet was also discovered on an uninhabited home in the town’s Xichengnan village, and the village chief and the village Party secretary were forced to read self-criticism statements in public as punishment.
“At present, suppressing religion is the number one priority. If there is a big crack in the wall, how can the government not notice it? If there is a couplet posted on the entrance, they immediately open their eyes and see it! They don’t attend to their proper duties!” one villager complained.
Another villager remarked, “This is a tough policy! If you post a Christian couplet, you will be either fined or detained. There will be inspections in the future. If any issues arise, even the township chief might not be able to keep his job. With each level putting pressure on the next level, everyone will be punished!”
In March, two village officials were fined after a hand-embroidered cross and a painting of a cross were found in the homes of government-approved Three-Self Church believers in Suiyang district of Henan’s Shangqiu city.
Be fast or lose your job
An official from Shangqiu’s Demonstration Zone of Urban-Rural Integration was suspended for half a year to “engage in self-reflection” for failing to promptly demolish three Buddhist statues, as ordered by his superiors. The statues were eventually torn down.
Meanwhile, a village Party branch secretary in Taizhou city, in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, was ordered by his superiors to demolish the existing temples and halt the construction of the new ones. The official did not destroy all the temples in a set time. “This is villagers’ last spiritual home,” he said. And he paid dearly: after two weeks, his work was deemed “unsatisfactory,” and he was removed from office in January this year. His superiors publicly said that his “speech and behavior seriously violated political discipline” and “had a negative impact.”