Authorities demolish underground church in Youtong, Diocese of Zhengding

The demolition follows the refusal by the local parish priest to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, controlled by the Communist Party of China. Fr Dong Baolu is the only clergyman who did not submit to the Party. In China, men and women religious can perform their functions only if they join “official” bodies.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Chinese authorities last month demolished an underground church in Youtong, a village in the Diocese of Zhengding (Hebei), Radio Free Asia reported.

The structure, actually a large tent, was torn down because the local parish priest, Fr Dong Baolu, refused to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which is controlled by the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The demolition took place while Fr Dong, who suffers from hemiplegia (paralysis of part of the body), was in the hospital for a check-up. The priest explains that he is the only one among the more than 100 parish priests in the diocese who refused to swear allegiance to the official Church controlled by the Party.

In February 2018, the Party imposed new regulations on religious activities, whereby religious personnel can perform their duties only if they join “official” bodies and submit to the CPC.

In 2018 China and the Vatican signed an agreement on the appointment of bishops, which was renewed in October 2020. Despite it, the persecution against the Catholic community, especially the underground one, has not ceased.

On the contrary, with xi Jinping's tightening his grip on all religious groups, Chinese Catholics have seen their autonomy further curtailed.

On 1 June, measures for the financial management of religious sites came into force. They were preceded on 1 March by administrative rules to regulate religious information services on the internet.

In February, the State Administration for Religious Affairs, an agency controlled by the Party’s United Front, issued administrative measures for religious personnel to manage clergy, including monks, priests, bishops, etc.

Recently, Pope Francis told Reuters that he hoped to see the agreement with the Chinese government renewed before it expires in October.