(JIANGSU — November 17, 2010) Chengnan Church, also known as the Tinghu District Central Church, is facing imminent demolition and removal by the government.
This Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church is located in Yancheng, Jiangsu province. After Changchunli Church in Shandong province, this is the second TSPM church that is being persecuted by the government and developers, resulting in illegal demolition and removal. They have requested assistance and prayer.
The following is a letter written by the congregation.
Concerning the Urgent Situation at Chengnan Church in Tinghu District, Yancheng
November 15, 2010
Facing forcible demolition by the government, Chengnan Church in Tinghu District has come to a critical juncture of its survival. Our vast congregation has no other alternative but to courageously fight back in accordance with the law to protect the legitimate rights of the church.
The authorities have seriously violated provisions in the “Regulations on Religious Affairs” written by the State Council and the “Regulations on Religion” written by Jiangsu Provincial Government.
The authorities chose a new location for the church without consulting the church or our members. Without legal procedures like presenting a land certificate or a certificate of title of home ownership, they forcefully ordered us to move out and forced our pastor, Pastor Ding, to sign documents without the involvement of our legal counsel.
We will never agree to this. The party that tries to forcibly demolish the church will be held liable for all consequences that result from these actions. If Chengnan Church is forcefully demolished, it would be a great mockery of China’s policy of freedom of religion.
The local government is obsessed with making money by selling the land without regards to the livelihood of the common people. This is willful and blatant deprivation and a trampling upon the freedom of religious believers.
Officials from municipal and district governments, namely Director Shi Jincheng from Office of Municipal Bureau of Religion, Deputy Director Chen Caiguo from District Bureau of Religion, Director Li Jian from Municipal Office for Key Projects, Deputy Secretary Song Wenjun from Huanghai Neighborhood Office of Tinghu District and others, harassed and raided the church on November 3, November 5 and November 7 stating that they were working on the demolition projects.
In the meantime, some unidentified people have been harassing the church day and night. Some people even come on Sundays to sow discord among the members of the church and try to deceive them.
On Saturday, November 13, 2010, authorities forcibly took Pastor Ding to the municipal government, claiming that they were holding a meeting. It was originally planned for us to hold a wedding ceremony in honor of a new couple in our church that day. In fact, the meeting was a house arrest. This is especially unacceptable. Both members of the church and the families of the new couple have serious complaints.
We hope people around the world with sense of justice and conscience show concern for Chengnan Church, and let the law of heaven and the truth of humanity prevail!
—The entire congregation of Chengnan Church of Tinghu District, Yancheng.
Chronicle of events related to the forcible demolition and removal suffered by Chengnan Church of Tinghu District, Yancheng
December 24, 1999: Upon review and registration at relevant departments of Yancheng Municipal People’s Government, Chengnan Christian Church of Tinghu District was founded.
June 12, 2003: The church bought four mu (about 0.65 acres) of land for constructing a church building funded by donations from members and loans.
April 2004: Construction on the church building began. It was completed in February 2005. The total cost was 5,000,000 yuan.
March 11, 2005 (Easter Sunday): Sunday services and various types of church activities were held in the church building. The building was able to accommodate 800 people.
2006: Developers, along with government departments, offered 2,860,000 yuan in an attempt to nab the church property. In the meantime, they refused to provide a piece of new land for the church.
After their offer was rejected by the church, the developers colluded with certain departments and often harassed the church. For instance, they intentionally cut off water supply and electricity.
November 16, 2009: At 9 a.m., real estate developers and the government agencies, enraged and desperate, brought over 500 people to the property in an attempt to demolish the church. The members of the church tried their best to fight back, and authorities failed in their attempt.
May 29, 2008: They stirred up troubles and tried to demolish the church again, but failed.
August 2008: A developer came to provoke people at the church. He became physically violent and beat a Christian, causing injuries for which the Christian was hospitalized.
Chengnan Church started a movement to defend their rights and sued at Tinghu District People’s Court.
December 16, 2008: At 6 p.m., Tinghu District People’s Court ruled in favor of Chengnan Christian Church.
December 17, 2008: Just past 6 a.m., a large number of government officials, police officers and unidentified people raided the church. Over 50 believers from the church engaged in morning prayer were dragged out of the building. The attackers began to tear down the church gate and the office.
Deputy Secretary Cai Zhaoshan of Yancheng Municipal Government led the demolition. About 10 believers who tried to stop them were beaten and injured. The area demolished on that day was up to 1,400 square meters.
Seeing Chengnan Church destroyed and his brothers injured, Pastor Ding became very sorrowful. He appealed, “Please pray for us. May they repent! May they be forgiven! In broad daylight, they tried to occupy the land by brute force and knowingly violate the law. The government must give us a reasonable explanation!”
June 6, 2010: Law enforcement officers of Yancheng illegally beat the believers and disrupted the Sunday service. The authorities issued an order of demolishing the church by force. The church faces total demolition.
June 13, 2010: Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, president of Chinese House Church Alliance, and his wife were intercepted on their way to Yancheng to visit the members of Chengnan Church. He was released after being under house arrest for two days.
August 9, 2010: Yancheng Municipal People’s Government issued the No. 67 Ordinance and decided to demolish the church.
September 30, 2010: The entire congregation of Chengnan Church wrote a letter of petition to the government, asking for a repeal of the ordinance.
November 3, 5 and 7: Officials from Yancheng Municipal Government and the district government, Director Shi Jincheng from Office of Municipal Bureau of Religion, Deputy Director Chen Caiguo from District Bureau of Religion, Director Li Jian from Municipal Office for Key Projects, Deputy Secretary Song Wenjun from Huanghai Neighborhood Office of Tinghu District and others, harassed and raided the church while claiming to be working on the demolition project. In the meantime, some unidentified people are harassing church both during the day and at night.
ChinaAid hereby expresses outrage because of the actions surrounding this case. The persecution of this TSPM church handed down by the authorities in Jiangsu clearly demonstrates that there is a serious lack of religious freedom and rule of law in China. After all, this church of this TSPM church is approved and registered by the government.
The Blue Book on religion only shows the government has to admit religion has grown rapidly in China, and they intend to cheat the people within China and mislead the international community outside China.
ChinaAid president Pastor Bob Fu said in regards to this case of persecution, “This proves something important to the house churches that harbor an illusion to receive legal status and obtain church properties through registration at government agencies. The case of this church in Yancheng is sufficient to show that in the current Chinese society where pursuit of material wealth is of paramount importance, the legal survival of religion must take the back seat and give way to the financial interests of the power elites and money bigwigs. This is quite alarming to them.”
Urgent Report From TSPM Church in Jiangsu