China: COVID protocols weaponized against Christians in Zhejiang

Source:                      www.ChinaAid.org

Date:                           January 11, 2022

 

A cross was forcibly demolished in Zhejiang Province
(Photo: Flickr)

 

(Zhejiang Province, China—January 11, 2022) In December last year, a new round of COVID infections broke out in Ningbo, Shaoxing, Hangzhou, and other places in Zhejiang province. Authorities shut down Christian church activities in Zhejiang province, claiming that it was for preventing COVID. All religious activities have been put to a halt, but all other public facilities recently opened.

In Pingyang County, Wenzhou City, Zhejiang Province, the leading local pandemic prevention and control group issued two regulations on December 9 and 12, requiring the local “religious (folk beliefs) activity venues to be temporarily closed to the public, and gathering activities to be suspended.” Although there weren’t any new COVID cases in Wenzhou.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Pastor Zhang Chongshun, familiar with the Covid and church situation in Pingyang County, Zhejiang province, revealed that the government has stopped local Christian church activities. He believes that such behavior by the government is “one-size-fits-all”:

Ningbo, Hangzhou, and Shaoxing have mandates to close public facilities. For Wenzhou and other regions, the provincial health department told them to implement them flexibly. But when it came to Wenzhou, Pingyang’s mandates were one-size-fits-all.

The local government ignored the fact that the region of Wenzhou did not have any new suspected cases and dealt with the problem in the same rigid way, without respecting and safeguarding the interests of other parties. They provoked dissent from a group of Christians in Pingyang County, who submitted a letter to the local government on December 14. Christians questioned the authorities’ reasoning for opening large local shopping malls, farmers’ markets, tourist attractions, libraries, museums, and other public facilities while closing religious activities. The group hoped that the “higher-level superiors” would “satisfy the desire of the majority of religious people to participate in gatherings properly when the pandemic is under control.” This “double standard” approach created doubts in people, solidifying the concern of government suppression in the name of COVID.

Local Christians are doubtful of the government’s motives and purposes. Zhang Chongshun said: “Other public spaces such as shopping malls, markets, and movie theaters are not closed, only churches are closed, which leads believers to think whether the government is doing these things in a targeted manner.”

Pingyang’s case is not an isolated incident. Similar situations have emerged in other regions, where local authorities have generally cited the fight against the pandemic as a reason for shutting down churches. The entire Wenzhou region of Zhejiang and other areas all conform to the “one-size-fits-all” policy where one isolated case of infection will lead to the lockdown of the whole region.

The Pingyang area was listed as a national “religion-free experimental zone” during the CCP dictatorship of Mao Zedong. CCP authorities persecuted Christians in Pingyang County, and the suppression was more severe than in other regions of China. Local police in Wenzhou tried to eradicate the foundation of Christianity in the Pingyang area. However, after more than 20 years, the total number of Christians in Pingyang has not declined but has grown substantially.

Local Christians held onto the belief that if the efforts of Mao Zedong’s regime to eradicate Christianity failed, then Xi Jinping will also. Regardless of how long the authorities will use the pandemic as a cover-up to shut down churches, the Christian faith will live on in Pingyang.

~Gao Zhensai, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid Association


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