Bravado and Bulldozers: Chinese Churches Topple Under Communist Decree

Today in China, bulldozers are hard at work destroying what Christians have taken years to build.

Church in Communist China being demolished

The Sanjiang church in Wenzhou, according to a report in the London Telegraph, has become a symbol of resistance to the Communist Party’s draconian clutch on religion.  Earlier this month, thousands of Christians formed a human shield around the church in Wenzhou, a coastal city known as the “Jerusalem of the East”, after the Communist government announced that it was one of at least ten churches which would be demolished as part of an anti-church crackdown.   (The actual number of churches destroyed, according to some reports, is between 1,000 and 1,200.)

Black police vans, military trucks and security agents have blocked the main road into the area, preventing media from accessing the scene.

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I had heard this day was coming, but I had hoped that someone would intervene.

After all, I remembered the anger around the world in 2001 when the Taliban, under orders from Mullah Mohammed Omar, destroyed two 1,700-year-old statues of Buddha as part of a campaign to obliterate all non-Islamic statues.  United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke with the Taliban’s foreign minister, Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, in an effort to save Afghanistan’s cultural heritage; but to no avail.  Annan said to reporters, regarding the destruction:

“They will be doing themselves a great deal of disservice, and no religious leaders from the Islamic world have supported the edict.   I told them you have to respect what is sacred to others.”

But to no avail.  The Taliban destroyed all moveable statues, including those in a museum in Kabul, as well as the towering ancient statues which stood in niches at the foot of the Hindu Kush mountains in central Afghanistan.

One of two statues destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001.
(This photo dates from 1976.)

This time, the offender is China.  The Chinese Communist Party, according to a report from Loyola University,

“…does not tolerate religion. Due to its Marxist sympathies the Party simply eradicates those religious institutions that do not support its Communist agenda. Only those religious groups that support the Chinese Communist Party are allowed to exist. These institutions are made up of “puppet” religious leaders that promote the Communist Party. Religious leaders who do not follow the Chinese Communist Party are imprisoned or sent to labor camps. Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims are all persecuted.”

The US Department of State, in its 1998 human rights report, said of the People’s Republic of China:

Unapproved religious groups, including Protestant and Catholic groups, continued to experience varying degrees of official interference and repression. The Government continued to enforce 1994 State Council regulations requiring all places of religious activity to register with the Government and come under the supervision of official, “patriotic” religious organizations. There were significant differences from region to region, and even locality to locality, in the attitudes of government officials toward religion. In some areas, authorities guided by national policy made strong efforts to control the activities of unapproved Catholic and Protestant churches; religious services were broken up and church leaders or adherents were detained and, at times, reportedly beaten.

At year’s end, some remained in prison because of their religious activities. Citizens worshiping in officially sanctioned churches, mosques, and temples reported little or no day-to-day interference by the Government. The number of religious adherents in many churches, both registered and unregistered, continued to grow at a rapid pace. In Tibet the reeducation campaign aimed at monks and nuns was renewed, as was a rhetorical campaign against the Dalai Lama. (State Department 1)

Even before the Communist takeover of China, there were anti-Christian sentiments which came to the fore–in, for example, the Boxer Uprising in 1900 and the anti-Christian movement of 1922-1927.

At this point, the Communist government in China has adopted a brutal policy opposing all religions except for the government-sponsored “official” church, with its puppet leader.  Free the Fathers, an organization which works to expose government brutality and assist imprisoned church leaders, reports:

 Over 200 Priests are still in prison in China today. Some are in forced labor camps, where they quarry rock, clear land, or labor in rice paddies. The Chinese Authorities are known to use hideous tortures on their Priest prisoners. Some have been punished by being kept in handcuffs 24 hours a day. Protestants are also persecuted. Thousands of “House Church” members, mainly Baptists, Presbyterians, and Pentecostals, have been arrested and sent to labor camps.

The suppression of Christianity continues unabated.  Jiang Mingyuan, a Catholic bishop from the Henan province who was ordained but not by the “official” church, was detained in August 2013 in the crackdown on the underground Catholic Church.  Some 85 Henan Christians were charged last month under China’s so-called “evil cult” legislation.

Christians reported to the Telegraph that their telephone lines were being monitored, and they feel unsafe.

Bob Fu, a Chinese American Christian pastor and founder/president of the China Aid Association, said,

“This government-orchestrated barbaric forced demolition represents a serious escalation against religious freedom in Zhejiang. The Chinese regime chooses to disregard its own laws and the will of its best citizens.”

Today, there was no word whether the church would be demolished in its entirety, or whether only part of it would be permitted to stand.  The government has refused to comment; but reports out of China on social media show the church in a shambles.

Picture of the felled church

 


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