|Pingyang County authorities detain a Chuiyang
Church member on Sept. 10. (Photo courtesy of
China Aid Association
After arriving, the police cordoned off all intersections leading to the church.
“In the past few days, people have not paid much attention to Guangming Church,” a Christian told China Aid on Aug. 28. “The cross was suddenly demolished. In the past few days, people’s attention has been on three churches in Mabu town, [another division of Pingyang County, which were in danger of demolition].”
Believers said that it was the lack of Christians on site to guard the church, due to their attention being diverted, that allowed authorities to outnumber them and successfully demolish the church’s cross.
Additionally, believers overheard a security guard who participated in the forced demolition state that everyone was being paid 300 yuan (US $48) for their work. To dispatch and pay 1,000 workers would cost 300,000 yuan (US $48,800), not counting any equipment costs.
“If they used the money in areas hit by natural disasters, it would be worth it,” a worshipper said. Several church members expressed discontent at the misuse of taxpayer money.
Christians said that the authorities were successful on Sept. 4 in part to a tactic they implemented the day before when a group of government-hired men showed up at the church pretending to be believers protesting the demolition. The group was even wearing t-shirts from the church, church members said.
After the group entered the church building, they quickly established control of the entrances and made their way to the top of the building. Shortly after, police officers and urban management personnel arrived and formed a perimeter around the church building. Around midnight, police detained the approximately 20 believers who had remained behind and bound themselves to the cross while others went home to rest. The cross was quickly demolished after the believers were removed.
The next day, Sept. 5, some of the detained worshippers were released. More of the detainees were released on Sept. 13, which marked the end of a nine-day administrative detention sentence, for charges of “hindering traffic,” given to them upon their apprehension. Those released on Sept. 13 included Zeng Yurao, a member of the Loving Care Center of Shenzhen, Guangdong, who had come to Wenzhou to support Shangzhou Church. Three others remain in custody.
|A group of believers guard Chuiyang Church
from the inside. (Photo courtesy of Chuiyang
Prior to the demolition, authorities had attempted to take down the cross but were met with resistance from church members. The attempt resulted in a physical conflict, which left several elderly Christians severely injured. Two of the injured were hospitalized.
In addition, nine believers were taken into custody. Of the detainees, three were placed under criminal detention, and six were placed under administrative detention. A believer also told China Aid that one of the detainees is the person in charge of Chuiyang Church.
Wenzhou-area Catholic church
“Relatively speaking, fewer crosses of Catholic churches are demolished,” the man said. “[But] maybe we don’t know it. In fact, maybe a lot of [Catholic churches’ crosses] are demolished.”
Meanwhile, the “Zhejiang Daily” ran a series of articles from Aug. 18-28, which defended the demolitions. An article on Aug. 22, titled “Religious Freedom and Three Rectifications and One Demolition are not in Conflict with Each Other,” stated that the Party’s consistent policy is to guarantee people’s religious freedom. It goes on to say that during the demolitions of building that violated regulations, some small-town leaders failed to pay attention to the manner in which the demolitions were carried out, which caused Christians, spurred by religious sentiment, to be vehemently against the campaign.
The article also stated that “overseas hostile forces…take advantage of this opportunity [to] add fuel to the fire and stir up trouble.” The article did not clarify what “hostile forces” it referred to, nor what those forces were doing to “stir up trouble.”
As of Aug. 7, the number of persecuted churches affected by the Zhejiang demolition campaign had reached 231, with unofficial accounts saying that number has reached more than 360 and continues to grow.
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Contact
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