Authorities in China return to demolish Christians’ homes after razing church

A cross is seen behind a poster with the logo of Communist Party of China near a Catholic church on the outskirts of Taiyuan, North China's Shanxi province, December 24, 2016.
A cross is seen behind a poster with the logo of Communist Party of China near a Catholic church on the outskirts of Taiyuan, North China's Shanxi province, December 24, 2016. | REUTERS/Jason Lee

A month after partially demolishing a church structure in China’s Fujian province, dozens of security guards and officials came back to bulldoze homes in the residential compound where the church once stood.

Guards and officials from the local Ethnic and Religious Bureau stormed the Xingguang Church building in Xiamen city last Wednesday for further demolition of Christian homes in conjunction to the house church, reports the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.

A Christian preacher, Yang Xibo from Xunsiding Church posted videos on Facebook in which dozens of officials from the Urban Management Law Enforcement department can be seen marching toward the remaining structures that were not demolished in June.

While breaking into a Christian home, the officials didn’t show any papers of authorization for their action. When a 67-year-old woman tried to stop them, officials — some of them equipped with anti-riot shields — shuffled her off.

“Other Christians at the scene who were trying to intervene were blocked at the stairs and prevented from moving further. When they questioned the authorities why they illegally entered private property and demolished people’s residence, they were met with silence,” ICC said.

“For the Chinese government to frantically persecute Christians even after their churches were shut down shows how Beijing has no interest in respecting religious freedom," Gina Goh, ICC’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, said. “What the Chinese Communist Party does not understand is that Christianity will not be wiped out just because the buildings no longer stand. The more the government erodes the rights of Chinese citizens, the more enemies it creates within its territories. One day, this pressure cooker will explode, threatening the CCP regime, the exact endgame it is fearful of.”

On June 11, more than 100 officers from four different agencies came to demolish parts of the Xingguang Church’s interior of five rooms, removing panelling and partition walls, according to the U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Authorities also removed church property, including furniture and educational materials, from the church’s school section.

The timing of the destruction coincided with the State Department’s annual report on international religious freedom, including a lengthy section on freedom of religion or belief violations by the Chinese government.

Xingguang Church was earlier raided on April 19, followed by another violent raid on May 3, in which many members were injured and some were briefly detained, according to ICC, which said the church’s preacher, Titus Yu, recently filed a complaint pursuant to China’s Supervision Law against three officials for their abuse of power and illegal intrusion of personal property. The preacher received no response.

The Italian-based magazine Bitter Winter, a publication produced by the Center for Studies on New Religion which covers human rights issues in China, reported in June that authorities removed crosses from more than 250 state-sanctioned churches in Anhui province between January and April.

In its 2020 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted that not only have authorities removed crosses from churches across the nation, but they have also banned youth aged 18 and younger from participating in religious services.

On Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, China is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians. The organization notes that all churches are perceived as a threat if they become too large, too political, or invite foreign guests.

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