China ensures 'stability’ by demolishing churches, removing crosses

A church is seen beside a laver farm at the Gutong Village of Sansha Township on October 15, 2007 in Xiapu County of Fujian Province, China. | Getty Images/China Photos

China’s crackdown against Christianity continued to escalate throughout May, with numerous reports of church raids, cross removals, and intimidation of believers emerging from across the country. 

According to persecution watchdog Bitter Winter, as China attempts to reopen after coronavirus lockdowns, communist authorities continue propagating “stability maintenance” measures that specifically target Christian places of worship. 

Last week, the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness revealed on Twitter that a state-vetted church located at Panji District in the city of Huainan, Anhui Province, had its cross removed by authorities. In a video shared by the group, a worker can be seen standing on the now-vacant rooftop of the church next to a ladder. 

In another post, CCFR shared photos of a house church in Shangrao city in Jiangxi province allegedly scheduled to be demolished. The photos show the church severely damaged, with ceiling tiles littered across the floor.

Bitter Winter reports that several churches in Dexing city, Shangrao city, and Fuzhou city were also raided by local authorities and told to shut down their churches and join the state-vetted Three-Self Church. Some church leaders were detained and forced to sign an agreement to stop gathering or join the official church.

Last week, footage emerged of police using force to disband a service at Xingguang Church in Xiamen city in the southeastern province of Fujian. During the raid carried out by security guards and officers from the local Ethnic and Religious Bureau, many believers were violently beaten, one of whom had to seek medical attention. 

The church was reportedly banned after the raid, for which officers never presented warrants.

Gina Goh, International Christian Concern’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, said China has clearly resumed its crackdown on Christianity now that the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic has reduced.

“In recent weeks, we have seen an increased number of church demolitions and cross removals on state-sanctioned churches across China, as house church gatherings continue to face interruption and harassment. It is deplorable that the local authorities not only conducted this raid without proper procedure, but deployed excessive use of force against church members and bystanders,” she said. “ICC calls on the international community and the US government to condemn China’s constant human rights abuses.”

Persecution watchdog Open Doors USA ranks China as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians. The country rose in the rankings from No. 27 to No 23. on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List report of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a believer. 

Earlier this year, Open Doors USA CEO David Curry told The Christian Post that China, under President Xi Jinping, is creating a “system of persecution for the future.”

“We have to call it out now,” he said. “Otherwise, it will be too late. Otherwise, they will sell it to Iran and others to oppress their religious minorities. That is why it needs to be really highlighted. Within five years, it would be almost too late to stop them."

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom last month released a report recommending that the U.S. government again designate China as a country of particular concern under the International Religious Freedom Act. The report cited China’s continued persecution of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims.

USCIRF also recommended the U.S. “impose targeted sanctions on Chinese government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom.”

USCIRF warned that "the state of religious freedom in China has continued to deteriorate" over the last year.

“There is no question that China is the world’s foremost violator of human rights and religious freedom,” said commissioner Johnnie Moore. “It cannot be compared to any other country in the world not only because of its inexcusable actions, but because of the way it aids and abets similar actions by other countries all around the world.”

Moore also criticized the international order for continuing to “let China play by its own rules, and especially at the United Nations.”

“This is absolutely inexcusable, and those nations around the world who ignore China’s malevolence may eventually find themselves subservient to it. It is past time for our world bodies, and our liberal democracies, to demand more from China,” he said.

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