(Zhejiang Province, China) In December last year, a new round of COVID
infections broke out in Ningbo, Shaoxing, Hangzhou, and other places in
Zhejiang province. Authorities shut down Christian church activities in
Zhejiang province, claiming that it was for preventing COVID. All religious
activities have been put to a halt, but all other public facilities recently
In Pingyang County, Wenzhou City, Zhejiang Province, the leading local pandemic
prevention and control group issued two regulations on December 9 and 12,
requiring the local “religious (folk beliefs) activity venues to be temporarily
closed to the public, and gathering activities to be suspended.” Although there
weren’t any new COVID cases in Wenzhou.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Pastor Zhang Chongshun, familiar with the
Covid and church situation in Pingyang County, Zhejiang province, revealed that
the government has stopped local Christian church activities. He believes that
such behavior by the government is “one-size-fits-all”:
Ningbo, Hangzhou, and Shaoxing have mandates to close public facilities. For Wenzhou and other regions, the provincial health department told them to implement them flexibly. But when it came to Wenzhou, Pingyang’s mandates were one-size-fits-all.
The local government ignored the fact that the region of Wenzhou did not have any
new suspected cases and dealt with the problem in the same rigid way, without
respecting and safeguarding the interests of other parties. They provoked
dissent from a group of Christians in Pingyang County, who submitted a letter
to the local government on December 14. Christians questioned the authorities’ reasoning for opening large local shopping malls, farmers’ markets, tourist attractions, libraries, museums, and other public facilities while closing religious
activities. The group hoped that the “higher-level superiors” would “satisfy the desire of the majority of religious people to participate in gatherings properly when the pandemic is under control.” This “double standard” approach created doubts in people, solidifying the concern of government suppression in the name of COVID.
Local Christians are doubtful of the government’s motives and purposes. Zhang
Chongshun said: “Other public spaces such as shopping malls, markets, and movie
theaters are not closed, only churches are closed, which leads believers to
think whether the government is doing these things in a targeted manner.”
Pingyang’s case is not an isolated incident. Similar situations have emerged in other
regions, where local authorities have generally cited the fight against the
pandemic as a reason for shutting down churches. The entire Wenzhou region of
Zhejiang and other areas all conform to the “one-size-fits-all” policy where
one isolated case of infection will lead to the lockdown of the whole region.
The Pingyang area was listed as a national “religion-free experimental zone” during
the CCP dictatorship of Mao Zedong. CCP authorities persecuted Christians in
Pingyang County, and the suppression was more severe than in other regions of
China. Local police in Wenzhou tried to eradicate the foundation of
Christianity in the Pingyang area. However, after more than 20 years, the total
number of Christians in Pingyang has not declined but has grown substantially.
Christians held onto the belief that if the efforts of Mao Zedong’s regime to
eradicate Christianity failed, then Xi Jinping will also. Regardless of how
long the authorities will use the pandemic as a cover-up to shut down churches,
the Christian faith will live on in Pingyang.
Zhensai, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid Association