|A church in Lecheng, Yueqing, Wenzhou was ordered to
demolish parts of their building on April 9, 2014. (Photo
courtesy of Lecheng neighborhood church)
China Aid Association
(Zhejiang—April 11, 2014) While one Wenzhou-based Three-Self church reached a compromise with the local government in regards to demolition orders on Monday, at least seven other churches in the city, located in China’s coastal Zhejiang province, are still facing demolition or rectification orders.
On Monday, leaders from Sanjiang Church, in Yongjia County, Wenzhou, signed an agreement with the local government. “We have signed an agreement…in which several stories of the accessory building behind the church are to be demolished. The nursing home for the elderly, [which is housed in the accessory building,] has six stories. After we signed the written agreement, we feel assured and at peace,” the church leader said.
When asked if the cross was still ordered to be demolished, the man told China Aid that it is safe. “No. We, the believers, would never let them demolish it. After all, the whole thing is about the cross. The government told us to demolish several stories of the building. Since they didn’t say anything about the cross, we…accepted the compromise.”
|A foreign journalist covers the Sanjiang
Church’s persecution from inside the church
in an undated photo. (Photo: China Aid)
Last week, China Aid reported that thousands of believers from all over the Wenzhou area were standing guard over Sanjiang Church. The situation there made international news, boasting coverage from major news organization such as The Washington Post and the U.K.’s The Daily Beast (see https://chinaaid.org/2014/04/zhejiang-tspm-church-faces-forced.html, https://chinaaid.org/2014/04/zhejiang-letter-of-prayer-to-all.html and https://chinaaid.org/2014/04/the-washington-post-why-chinese.html).
While Sanjiang Church has seen the victory brought about by their steadfastness and international media attention, at least seven other churches in Wenzhou are still being persecuted through Zhenjiang’s “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign, documents of which China Aid published this week (see https://chinaaid.org/2014/04/exclusive-china-aid-receives-internal.html and https://chinaaid.org/2014/04/government-notice-lists-privately.html).
The documents state that the purpose of demolishing “illegal” buildings and rectifying “conspicuous” structures, such as the crosses that top most Christian churches, is to build the economy, bring about modern construction and beautify Zhejiang.
One of the most heavily persecuted areas is Yueqing, a county-level city in Wenzhou. Three churches in Yueqing are facing orders to demolish various structures.
|This photograph shows the demolition notice received by a
church in Lecheng, Yueqing, Wenzhou on April 9, 2014.
(Photo courtesy of Lecheng neighborhood church)
“Another church that faces demolition is Dagang Hall of Baixiang Church in Yueqing. Recently, we suddenly got the news that the church is to be torn down, and they want to demolish the church’s Sunday school’s multipurpose building, [which consists of a main four-story building and an accessory building],” Zheng Leguo, a leader at Sanjiang Church in Yongjia County said. The church was ordered to tear the building down by April 3.
The following day, April 4, government employees showed up at another church in Yueqing. “Their target was a nursing home of Jiangjiaqiao Church. A SWAT team came and tried to tear down the church by force. However, many elderly brothers and sisters of the church came out and protected the nursing home. The SWAT team had to leave,” Zheng said.
Most recently, a church in the Lecheng neighborhood of Yueqing was presented with an official notice. The 100-year-old church received the “Notice of Order for Demolition by a Due Date” on Wednesday. The text of the notice has been translated, below. Due to the nature of the photograph, handwritten parts of the notice were illegible.
This is to notify you that your work unit built illegal structures without approval at [illegible] village, [illegible] neighborhood, which is a violation of the “Law of the People’s Republic of China on Land Management,” “Law of the People’s Republic of China on Urban and Rural Planning,” and other related regulations. According to the gist in the document coded Le Wei Ban  No. 22, you (your work unit) are hereby ordered to demolish the structures and other facilities that violate the law by April 18, 2014. If you fail to execute this notice by the due date, the order shall be executed by force, and you (your unit) shall be responsible for all the consequences resulting from it.
Yueqing Neighboorhood Office
Yueqing City Bureau of Construction
Yueqing Municipal Bureau of Homeland Resources
April 9, 2014
Four churches in Rui’an, another county-level city in Wenzhou, are facing some form of demolition. One of those churches is Guangming Church, a house church located in the Shibajia Industrial Zone of Rui’an.
“Since we didn’t have a church building, several churches including ours bought our church building inside the Industrial Zone. Because it is in the Industrial Zone, we built some churches without approval,” said the Guangming Church pastor, who wished to remain anonymous. “Some factories inside the Industrial Zone have also built some structures without approval, but only our churches have received notices of demolition. They say we must demolish the church ourselves by April 10.”
Another house church was partially demolished after violating building plans that had been previously agreed upon. “Our house church site has approval [for] 500 square meters. When it was finally built, the whole area reached 900 square meters. When the groundwork was completed, reinforcing steel bars were put up and scaffolding was set up, soldiers came to demolish the scaffolding. Now, we have lost several thousand dollars from the scaffolding, and the main engineering is not finished,” a church member said.
A third church is also facing demolition.
The fourth church that has reported persecution had the cross on top of its church covered with black canvas by the local government in what appears to be a more lax move.
“A surprising scene appeared in Wenzhou—Recently, a church at a highway exit in Xianjiang, Rui’an of Wenzhou received a notice from the government asking them to demolish their cross. They found themselves in a dilemma. Finally, they decided to cover the cross with a piece of canvas. The cross suffers shame and the Chinese Constitution that supposedly safeguards the freedom of belief also suffers shame!” Chinese Christian writer Mande said on Weibo.
|Xinduqiao Church in Rui’an, Wenzhou had the cross topping
the building covered with canvas by the local government.
(Photo courtesy of Man De)
The microblog was forwarded 1,020 times and reached 251,000 unique viewers in the course of one day. More than 200 people commented on the post, and many of the comments supported the Xinduqiao Church. “Trampling the freedom of religious belief,” “intolerable by the course of nature,” and “I thought only the Taliban could do [something like] this” were a few of the comments on the post.
Other prominent social figures in China commented on the post as well, including Zhao Xiao, a prominent Chinese Christian economist; Yang Fenggang, a professor of sociology and director of Purdue’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society; Li Xianping, Yang’s counterpart at Purdue’s Shanghai campus; and others.
A local believer, also on Weibo, said that it was the government who covered the cross in what seemed to be a merciful move. “In the early morning, some brothers went to the church and tried to get some information on the church’s cross being covered. The person in charge of the church was very apprehensive and said: ‘A few days ago, some leaders came to notify us that our cross on the side of the provincial highway is too conspicuous and should be demolished. The township leaders said we could first of all cover the cross with cloth and wait for the events to cool off.’”
According to a church member, when Xia Baolong, the provincial Party secretary, was inspecting the agricultural industry in the region, he demanded that the cross be covered. When the church refused, the government sent people to install iron racks to hold the canvas that would cover the cross. The church was told the government would come back in two weeks to remove the covering.
However, shortly after Mande’s Weibo post began circulating, the cross was uncovered.
Xia Baolong has been speculated by believers to be the mastermind behind the province-wide demolition campaign. “After Xia Baolong…inspected the area, he started his test in Wenzhou to see how these churches would react,” one believer said.
Others have suggested the reason behind the persecution is that some of the local TSPM churches are Three-Self churches in name only, having registered with the TSPM in order to obtain land and building permits. Most of the churches branched away from the government after their initial contact, leaving them highly independent. “In general, those churches that rely on the government are only a minority,” Zheng Leguo said.
“Many churches have felt this is not an isolated incident involving only one church, but an incident heralding a large-scale rectification campaign. Churches at various locales have united and abandoned their historical burdens in a joint effort to defend their churches from being demolished,” a Christian named Chen said.