|Authorities demolished the outer wall at the front of Xialing
Church in Lucheng District, Wenzhou, Zhejiang, on Oct. 9.
(Photo courtesy of Xialing Church members)
China Aid Association
Xialing Church, in Wenzhou’s Lucheng District, was attacked by more than 600 government employees and police officers early this morning. Hundreds of Christians were present, guarding the church just as they have been for the last two months.
Once officials arrived, they began trying to take over the church in order to demolish the cross. Because of the believers’ presence, authorities were unable to demolish the cross and instead took down part of the church’s outer wall, as well as the door at the main entrance and some windows.
In the process of demolishing the church’s wall, police injured at least three Christians, causing an elderly man to be taken to a local hospital for medical attention.
Officials finally gave up but told church members they would be back soon to demolish the entire church.
“In taking down the cross of Gaoao Church, some people were taken into custody, but no one was injured. It was later confirmed that 14 worshippers were taken into custody,” a church member said.
“According to their original plan, the [authorities] would come to Guankou Church and take down the cross. However, there was a storm with thunder and lightning so there was no way they could do it,” a Wenzhou-area church employee said.
Church members told China Aid that Taishun County authorities sent Guankou Church a demolition notice on Sept. 28 that had been issued by the Taishun County Bureau of Housing and Urban Planning on Sept. 25. The notice stated that the church must withdraw from its building by 8 a.m. on Sept. or face “all the consequences.”
Wangxiang Church was formerly a house church but joined the local Three-Self Patriotic Movement in 2006. At that time, the TSPM granted the church a certificate for religious activities and provided services for the construction of the church’s building.
“More than 1,300 police officers were there…because the church is the largest one in Shaoxing and many people come to gather there,” a local said.
|Xialing Church members defend the cross.
(Photo courtesy of Xialing Church members)
“More than 1,000 police officers surrounded the church, and the worshippers’ cell phone signals were shielded,” a worshipper posted in a message online. “The cross of the church was taken down [even though] all the paperwork for the church was there and there were no violations of the building codes. The [officers] are simply a bunch of robbers and thugs. Why didn’t they take it down in broad daylight? Now, in China, man’s will is greater than the law. How can they talk about a society under rule of law?”
There is also evidence that shows the government’s prior support of the church. The Shaoxing Municipal Religious Affairs Bureau’s website states, “This bureau conducted a review on the construction project of Keqiao Christian Church in Shaoxing County. Pursuant to Article 24 of the Zhejiang Provincial Regulation for Religious Affairs, our opinion on the review after research is as follows: We approve the construction project at Keqiao Christian Church in Shaoxing County.”
The website also says that on April 18, 2013, a completion ceremony was held at the new church building with more than 6,000 attendees, several of whom were individuals from the Zhejiang TSPM who were invited by the church.
Other Zhejiang churches
Meanwhile, a Pingyang County, Wenzhou-based worshipper told China Aid that the Zhejiang government is planning to conduct a pilot program at Yongen Church in Cangnan County, Wenzhou. “They want to do something there like a harmonious society. There are strong repercussions for the church. The government wants to get involved in the internal affairs.”
Believers are also reporting that the large number of demolitions, as well as the failed attempts, has taken its toll financially on the Pingyang County government.
“The financial situation in Pingyang County is very bad,” a Christian said. “They want to take down the crosses, but they don’t’ have the money to do so. Now several hundred yuan is taken out from each public servant’s monthly pay. For some teachers, they aren’t even paid.”
There are also reports that demolitions are starting to occur outside of Zhejiang. Catholic churches in China’s central Hunan province and inland Jiangxi province.
Some believers have chosen focused on the government’s wrongdoing. “We have a government without trust, ethics or quality,” one man said. “They are destroying their own reputation with their bad behaviors. What do they get in return for such acts? All that they do will have consequences.”
However, other believers have said that the persecution against churches would only replenish the believers’ faith “Churches grow and expand amidst persecution,” a Christian woman named Wang said. “They can’t beat us. In the time of Moses, the more persecution the churches suffered, the faster they grew. In fact, the environment the churches find themselves in nourishes the revival of the churches.”