September 27, 2010
Read ChinaAid’s initial report on Changchunli Church from June 15, 2009 here.
SHANDONG — The information officers of China Human Rights Defenders, Zhao Jing and Cong Mei, have just received a complaint from the members of the registered Three-Self Patriotic Movement Changchunli Church of Ji’nan, Shandong. On September 23, 2010, over 200 young people dressed in police uniforms, wearing police helmets, and claiming to be police officers suddenly broke into the tents inhabited by members of Changchunli Church at the construction site on Wanda Square. The church members were attacked, and 16 elderly people and women sustained serious injuries, including an elderly person that was left blind in one eye. The believers immediately dialed the emergency police number (110), but the police department responded slowly to the urgent call for assistance. Upon arrival, the officers acted like bystanders and did not speak with the believers; they only discussed matters with land developers who were present. Later that day, some 300 believers went to the municipal government to stage a protest and petition the authorities.
On June 8, 2009, the director and deputy director of the Ji’nan Municipal Bureau for Ethnic and Religious Affairs abused their power and negotiated with demolition and removal officials rather than the registered Christian church. They manipulated the presidents from Ji’nan Christian Council and the Municipal Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee (Municipal CCC/TSPM), and under duress the Municipal CCC/TSPM signed an agreement authorizing the removal and demolition of Changchunli Church — an unlawful agreement that at least twice violated the Regulations on Religious Affairs. Before it was signed, the agreement was illegally hidden from the Management Committee and members of Changchunli. Also, the land that belonged to Changchunli Church was significantly reduced from a total of 1129.33 square meters to just 300 square meters. No part of the agreement addressed right of use of over 800 square meters of land, and it was simply occupied without compensation, thus violating Clause 30 of the Regulations on Religious Affairs.
To force the believers of Changchunli to accept this unfair agreement, the Municipal Bureau for Ethnic and Religious Affairs had the Municipal CCC/TSPM make the following decisions on June 8, 2009: all religious activities of Changchunli would be stopped, the chief pastor would be recalled, the functions of the church’s management committee would be canceled, and the members of the church would be dispersed. Since the decision did not have any legal basis, it was boycotted by the members of Changchunli Church.
Since the initial agreement was issued in 2009, members of Changchunli Church have been reporting to the Municipal Party Committee of Ji’nan, the municipal government, and other relevant agencies. They have also petitioned and written letters to the State Council and the relevant ministries and commissions of the central government. Yet, the issue has been delayed repeatedly and is still unsolved. As a result, the conflicts over the demolition and removal intensified, and now the congregation is has to figure out how to handle the incidents from last Thursday.
The members of Changchunli set up tents on the construction site of Wanda Square because land developers told them the area was designated for another church site. After realizing the church members objected to it, they changed their account and said they would be building an underground basement instead. But according to word received by the Wanda Square construction contractor, another church would forcibly built on the land occupied by church members. After Changchunli Church built their tents, they gave their reasons and retold their story to the directors of the Municipal CCC/TSPM and gave a report to a section chief of the Municipal Bureau for Ethnic and Religious Affairs. However, after not receiving any responses, the church members submitted an application to the Municipal Public Security Bureau for a demonstration.
They were told that it was impossible for the application to be approved, and under such circumstances, the members had to take action by themselves and built tents on the construction site to prevent the unfair agreement from being implemented.
In 2008, the Ji’nan Municipal Bureau for Ethnic and Religious Affairs unlawfully initiated this legal battle concerning the demolition and removal of Changchunli Church. The further actions of the Ji’nan Municipal Government have only intensified the conflict, finally resulting in this last incident. Church members have suffered greatly, the image of the government has been tainted, and the overall picture of social stability and harmony has been adversely affected.
Members of the church strongly demand that the relevant agencies:
- immediately stop the construction on the church and stop implementing the unfair agreement,
- nullify the unfair agreement on demolition and removal,
- resolve the issue of the demolition and removal of Changchunli Church in accordance with law,
- investigate the legal and administrative liabilities of relevant officials concerning this issue, and
- pay damages and compensation to the members of the church who were injured.
The congregation of Changchunli Church shares their story in hopes that the worldwide media and brothers and sisters in Christ keep themselves informed of their situation.
ChinaAid continues to stand with Changchunli Church through the hardship of this legal battle. Christians and people of conscience are encouraged to stand by the members in their time of need.
Read ChinaAid’s press release from June 2009: State Religious Leaders and Government Officials Attempt to Forcibly Demolish Church in Shandong