Group: Of­fi­cials de­stroy­ing crosses, burn­ing bibles in China

The Myanmar Times - - World -

CHINA’S gov­ern­ment is ratch­et­ing up a crack­down on Chris­tian con­gre­ga­tions in Bei­jing and sev­eral prov­inces, de­stroy­ing crosses, burn­ing bibles, shut­ting churches and or­der­ing fol­low­ers to sign pa­pers re­nounc­ing their faith, ac­cord­ing to pas­tors and a group that mon­i­tors re­li­gion in China.

The cam­paign cor­re­sponds with a drive to “Sini­cize” re­li­gion by de­mand­ing loy­alty to the of­fi­cially athe­ist Com­mu­nist Party and elim­i­nat­ing any chal­lenge to its power over peo­ple’s lives.

Bob Fu of the U.S.-based group China Aid said over the week­end that the clo­sure of churches in cen­tral He­nan province and a prom­i­nent house church in Bei­jing in re­cent weeks rep­re­sents a “sig­nif­i­cant es­ca­la­tion” of the crack­down.

“The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should be alarmed and out­raged for this bla­tant vi­o­la­tion of free­dom of re­li­gion and be­lief,” he wrote in an email.

Un­der Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, China’s most pow­er­ful leader since Mao Ze­dong, re­li­gious be­liev­ers are see­ing their free­doms shrink dra­mat­i­cally even as the coun­try un­der­goes a re­li­gious re­vival. Ex­perts and ac­tivists say that as he con­sol­i­dates his power, Xi is wag­ing the most se­vere sys­tem­atic sup­pres­sion of Chris­tian­ity in the coun­try since re­li­gious free­dom was writ­ten into the Chi­nese con­sti­tu­tion in 1982.

Fu also pro­vided video footage of what ap­peared to be piles of burn­ing bibles and forms stat­ing that the sig­na­to­ries had re­nounced their Chris­tian faith. He said that marked the first time since Mao’s rad­i­cal 1966-1976 Cul­tural Revo­lu­tion that Chris­tians had been com­pelled to make such dec­la­ra­tions, un­der pain of ex­pul­sion from school and the loss of wel­fare ben­e­fits.

A Chris­tian pas­tor in the He­nan city of Nanyang said crosses, bibles and fur­ni­ture were burned dur­ing a raid on his church on Sept. 5.

The pas­tor, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied by name to avoid reper­cus­sions from author­i­ties, said sev­eral peo­ple en­tered the church just as it opened its doors at 5 a.m. and be­gan re­mov­ing items.

He said the church had been in dis­cus­sions with lo­cal author­i­ties who de­manded it “re­form” it­self, but no agree­ment had been reached or of­fi­cial doc­u­ments re­leased.

Chi­nese law re­quires re­li­gious be­liev­ers to wor­ship only in con­gre­ga­tions reg­is­tered with the author­i­ties, but many mil­lions be­long to so-called un­der­ground or house churches that defy gov­ern­ment re­stric­tions.

A lo­cal of­fi­cial reached by phone at the Nanyang city gov­ern­ment dis­puted the ac­count, say­ing of­fi­cials re­spected re­li­gious free­dom. The man de­clined to give his name, as is com­mon with Chi­nese bu­reau­crats, while a per­son an­swer­ing phones at the lo­cal re­li­gious af­fairs bureau said they were “not clear” about the mat­ter.

In Bei­jing, the Zion church was shut on Sun­day by around 60 gov­ern­ment work­ers who ar­rived at 4:30 p.m. ac­com­pa­nied by buses, po­lice cars and fire trucks, the church’s pas­tor, Ezra Jin Min­gri, said Mon­day. Zion is known as the largest house church in Bei­jing, with six branches.

The of­fi­cials de­clared the gath­er­ings il­le­gal and sealed off church prop­er­ties, Jin said, af­ter al­ready freez­ing the pas­tor’s per­sonal as­sets in an ap­par­ent at­tempt to force him to com­ply with their de­mands.

“Churches will con­tinue to de­velop. Block­ing the sites will only in­ten­sify con­flicts,” Jin told The As­so­ci­ated Press by phone.

A no­tice posted Sun­day on the web­site of the Chaoyang district gov­ern­ment in Bei­jing said the Zion Church had been closed be­cause it failed to reg­is­ter with the gov­ern­ment.

All of China’s of­fi­cially rec­og­nized re­li­gions ap­pear to have been af­fected by the crack­down. In the most ex­treme ex­am­ple, an es­ti­mated 1 mil­lion Uighurs and other mem­bers of Mus­lim mi­nor­ity groups in the coun­try’s north­west have been ar­bi­trar­ily de­tained in in­doc­tri­na­tion camps where they are forced to de­nounce Is­lam and pro­fess loy­alty to the Com­mu­nist Party.

The gov­ern­ment says it is tak­ing nec­es­sary mea­sures to elim­i­nate ex­trem­ism, but de­nies set­ting up the camps.

China has an es­ti­mated 38 mil­lion Protes­tants, and ex­perts have pre­dicted that the coun­try will have the world’s largest Chris­tian pop­u­la­tion in a few decades.

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