(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—May 22, 2014) Authorities in China’s coastal Zhejiang province ordered Wenzhou-area house churches to stop gathering on Sunday; meanwhile, more than 60 additional church buildings have been demolished or had their cross demolished across the province.
|Sanjiang Church built ( I think) in 2012|
China Aid published a report this week, listing 64 churches that had been demolished, had crosses removed, demolished or covered, or received demolition notices.
Events in the compilation occurred both before and after the demolition of Sanjiang Church’s building. Many believe that the demolition of Sanjiang Church sets a precedent, leaving no hope for smaller churches to withstand persecution. After the April 28 demolition of the imposing, 30 million yuan (US $4.8 million) Sanjiang Church building, authorities have turned their attention to local, low-profile house churches, threatening them to quit gathering.
On April 4, a Catholic church in Pingyang County, Wenzhou, was forcibly demolished. The government sent in SWAT to intimidate believers. Some believers were beaten up for resisting the demolition and one person was injured, head covered with blood and dropping to the ground. The church building was bulldozed to the ground.
“There is a church building that also houses a grocery market about 1/3 miles from my home,” a house church worshipper from Yueqing County in Wenzhou said. “The people were notified to implement an order that all gatherings shall stop from this Sunday. If people there don’t stop their gatherings, the building…will be confiscated.”
It appears the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign isn’t slowing down; authorities demolished 10 more crosses topping Wenzhou-area churches.
“Some [of the demolished crosses] were demolished by the authorities and some were demolished by the people of the churches themselves,” said Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese House Church Alliance.
Local believers said that some of the demolished crosses didn’t violate planning codes and there may be more churches affected. “As for the specific number of churches and crosses that have been demolished, I don’t know it clearly,” one Christian said. “In…places where they don’t have a strong force [behind the church], churches are not willing to make [demolitions] public. Many people don’t want to tell us, so we can’t help them.”
“We have heard here that it is estimated that more than 10 church will be demolished,” (he is probably referring to Wenzhou only) Mr. Tang, a house church member in Wenzhou, said. “Talking about demolishing crosses, in the two-thousand-year history of this area, there have not been many incidents like this. Even in the Cultural Revolution, people didn’t say the crosses violated the Constitution. Even when the churches were turned into warehouses, they didn’t demolish their crosses. Now, they don’t do things according to the law.”
Tang also said that the reason church leaders in Wenzhou are not appealing for help is that they have signed agreements with the government, stating that they won’t interfere in the government’s business with other churches so that their own church will be left alone. “Those who go to defend their religion won’t have a good time,” Tang said.
Tang said those who do try to defend their religion in the area have been threatened financially as well. “For those who have a job, they have been suspended. For those who have factories, their factories have been sealed. They will audit your tax documents. In a word, they will make you suffer greatly.”