Date: June 9, 2020
At least 48 state-registered “three-self” churches and meeting venues were shut down in a county of China between 18 and 30 April, as part of the on-going crackdown on Christianity by the ruling communist party.
Religious items have been stripped from churches in Yugan county and replaced with images of President Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong. Chairman Mao presided over China's Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976, during which all religious expression was banned [Image credit: Bitter Winter]
Yugan county, in Jiangxi province, became one of the key targets of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) increasingly repressive measures presumably because of its large number of Christian residents, according to the website Bitter Winter. More than 10% of the population of one million are Christians, who attend around 300 official “three-self” churches.
“Ever since the central religious supervision team was stationed in Yugan county, officials of all government levels don’t dare to relax,” said a local Christian.
In late April, officials led by the mayor stormed into a “three-self” church in Shegeng town and forcibly removed its podium, cross and religious items, causing many members of the congregation to break down in tears.
“Whether they demolish a church or a cross, everyone is afraid to challenge them,” said the local Christian. “If you try to protest, they will accuse you of fighting against the Communist Party and the central government.”
In Yangbu town, officials demolished the cross of a “three-self” church in mid-April, and announced that the church was to be turned into an activity centre for the elderly.
In Yugan’s Daxi township, a local CCP secretary told Christians that it was one of the state’s policies to shut down churches and demolish crosses. “Higher echelons of government declared after an inspection that there were too many believers in the county,” said the secretary. “When so many believe in God, who will listen to the Communist Party?”
Many “three-self” churches and meeting venues were stripped of their possessions and merged in Yugan’s Meigang and Jiulong townships. A local Christian commented, “The government does not allow us to believe in God.
“[President] Xi Jinping follows the path of Mao Zedong, who cracked down on all religious beliefs and killed people of faith. If you refuse to obey the president who orders you not to attend religious meetings, you’ll be arrested and imprisoned.”
The ongoing CCP crackdown against the Church is part of Xi Jinping’s five-year plan, announced in 2018, to “reinterpret” Christianity according to secular socialist views, in a process of “sinicisation” (i.e. to make Chinese). In a series of repressive measures, hundreds of “three-self” churches and “house churches” (i.e. unregistered congregations) have been closed, pastors have been arrested and imprisoned and surveillance cameras installed inside churches.