Campaign against underground Protestant churches intensifies
In various parts of the country, some churches have been forcibly shut down or incorporated into the official body. Kindergartens have also been closed. Participants in a memorial service for the victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake have been arrested. The government fears a religious renaissance.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – In recent weeks, Chinese authorities have put pressure on underground Protestant communities (the so-called house churches) in various parts of the country to join the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement or shut down.
In some cases, churches and prayer meeting places have been demolished. Below is a list of acts of violence published Radio Free Asia two days ago.
Government officials raided the 200-member Supreme Love church in Jiangxi, in the eastern county of Jinxian, and ordered it closed down. Members were told not to hold gatherings. The faithful now meet secretly in a village far from the city.
In the south-eastern province of Fujian, a church in Nanping was ordered to register with the government-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Members were banned from meeting in each other’s homes.
In Xiamen, also in Fujian, authorities shut down a kindergarten built and fully funded by the city's Xunsiding church. A number of parents and children gathered at the gates of the kindergarten, singing and praying in an apparent protest.
Local sources said the church had received notification from the Religious Affairs Bureau and the Education Bureau saying that the kindergarten had not obtained the necessary approvals before opening its doors.
In Luhe County, near Shanwei, in the southern province of Guangdong, authorities closed a senior citizens’ centre. After threatening to tear it down, they sent 200-300 riot police to demolish it. The centre had been built with community contributions and sometimes hosted prayer meetings.
On Monday, in Dafang County, in the south-western province of Guizhou, Yan Hengping, a local Protestant Christian, was told not hold prayer meetings or liturgical services.
On 12 May, police raided a church in Jiangxin Mansions of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, where a group of Christians were holding a memorial service for the victims of the 2008 earthquake.
Members of the Early Rain Covenant Church were arrested and taken away on two buses. Its pastor. Rev Wang Yi, said that the operation was led by state security police, and the Cultural Affairs Bureau. The police also seized some 15,600 books and pamphlets.
The Chinese government fears the great religious renaissance that is currently underway in the country.
It fears above all the growth of Protestant communities, most of which refuse to join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (the official Protestant organisation), which they consider beholden to the authorities.
Underground Protestants are estimated to number more than 40 million, whilst the official community has about 20 million members.
Catholic communities too are the victims of the same policy of raids, closings, demolitions, and forced registration in Henan, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, etc.