March 17, 2010
SHANDONG–After nearly 10 years being deprived of their church property, Pastor Feng Minghuai and members of Boshan House Church met with district officials in early 2010 to appeal for their church building and the right to return to their place of worship. The land and property dispute began after the expelled Pastor Zhao Ailian illegally signed over the church property to the Chinese government, without the consent of Boshan church members, on December 10, 1999. The old church building now stands empty, while the more than 5,000 Boshan Church members have been forced to worship in cramped, small buildings, often structurally unsafe.
On March 28, 2008, Pastor Feng Minghuai and over one thousand Boshan Church members signed a petition to the Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Mr. Jia Qinglin, and to the Boshan County and Zibo City officials in Shandong. They demanded that the government return the church property which had been occupied by the bankrupted Boshan Printing Company and to restore the old church building. They have now persisted in their legal appeals for over two years, appealing to county, city, and district level officials.
In their conversation last month, district officials, intending to trap the church members into making anti-party or subversive statements, asked Pastor Feng, “Should the land we took from the Kuomintang (the Nationalist Chinese Party) also be returned?” One of the officers said, “The land was owned by the printing factory. After it went bankrupt, the land was sold to individuals. If you want it back you can pay 10 million yuan to buy it.” Well aware of the church’s non-profit status and previous ownership of the disputed land, the official’s unreasonable remarks intended to intimidate the church members. Another officer further prodded, “Even though many people signed the letter, not everyone is willing (or wanting) to have the church property back, right?” Refusing to be aggravated by the officers mocking remarks, the Pastor and church members replied, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. Every true believer wishes to take back the inheritance of God.”
Despite the rejections, Boshan Church members remain committed to defending their religious and civil rights according to Chinese law. These patriotic citizens believe that a harmonious relationship between the Church and State is fundamental to a harmonious society. Accordingly, they have repeatedly appealed to the authorities for religious freedom and protection of the historical heritage, and further requested that the church property, formerly occupied by the bankrupted Boshan Printing Factory, be returned to the church so they can rebuild. Patiently awaiting the decision of leaders of Shandong, they pray daily for the repentance of the Boshan government and the realization of a self-founded and self-supported church in Shandong.
Background for Boshan House Church
The Boshan Church has over a hundred years of history. In 1903, the English Baptist church pastor Tak-Sing and his wife founded Boshan Church with about 50 church members. In 1924, the English Baptist church associated with the local Christians to build a sanctuary and facilities in southern Boshan city. There were 11 rooms total, including the worship hall, photography room, playground, and classroom. They also built the Boai kindergarten and the Yucai primary school. In 1949, the church members were up to 237; later, Boshan Church assisted the government in building the Yongsheng Ranch and developed the dairy business in Zibo City. During the Cultural Revolution, the church was forced to close. In early 80s, the government implemented the policies on religious building property and the Boshan church building was returned on January 1, 1981. Meantime, the church activities returned to normal. In 1985, the church had 126 registered members; by 2008, the number grew to 5,000. The current church pastor Feng Minghuai is a graduate of Nanjing Jinling Xiehe Seminary.
The old church building is located at Boshan 8 Emeishan Rd. The building has an elegant European architectural style and highlights the ancient culture and tradition in Boshan city. It is one of the most famous historical and cultural heritage and tour sites in town. Originally, the church covered 6 acres (about 4000 square meters). Later, construction of Central Road occupied 2 acres, but the church still had about 4 acres (about 2500 square meters). On December 10, 1999, the church’s former pastor, Zhao Ailian (resigned from Boshan Church in 1999, expelled from the Church in 2002), signed an agreement with the government to give the church property to the Boshan printing factory and transfer the members to the Longquan Temple for worship gathering. This was done without the consent of the church’s administration committee or members. The Boshan government violated the Central Government’s religious policy (issued in March 1982, file no. 19), so the land should be returned. Individuals who betray the interest of the Church ought to be held accountable under the law.
The government has since created obstructions and refused to return the church property. In 1992, the government invested in building a 600 square meters Christian Church upon a nunnery site, which is damp and often has cracked rocks falling from the hill. The church is situated near the highway. The environment is unsafe and noisy; traffic accidents happen all the time and bicycles are always getting stolen.
Now the Boshan Printing Company is bankrupt. The old church building has been left unused and has been damaged in the harsh weather. Traditionally, a church is a holy place to be protected by the State; according to law, the Government has no right to sell, transfer or exchange the church properties. The Boshan Christian repeatedly requested the Government to return the church property, but to no avail.
China Aid Association encourages Christians all over the world to pray for brothers and sisters in Boshan. We call on local authorities to return the confiscated church property and support Boshan Church’s legal claim. We pray for the realization of the self-founded and self-supported church in Shandong.
Boshan Christians Appeal to Regain Stolen Church Land and Property