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Group: Officials destroying crosses, burning Bibles in China

(AP Photo/Andy Wong)

BEIJING (AP) — China’s government is ratcheting up a crackdown on Christian congregations in Beijing and several provinces, destroying crosses, burning Bibles, shutting churches and ordering followers to sign papers renouncing their faith, according to pastors and a group that monitors religion in China.

The campaign corresponds with a drive to “Sinicize” religion by demanding loyalty to the officially atheist Communist Party and eliminating any challenge to its power over people’s lives.

Bob Fu of the U.S.-based group China Aid said over the weekend that the closure of churches in central Henan province and a prominent house church in Beijing in recent weeks represents a “significant escalation” of the crackdown.

“The international community should be alarmed and outraged for this blatant violation of freedom of religion and belief,” he wrote in an email.

Under President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, religious believers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country undergoes a religious revival. Experts and activists say that as he consolidates his power, Xi is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982.

Fu also provided video footage of what appeared to be piles of burning Bibles and forms stating that the signatories had renounced their Christian faith. He said that marked the first time since Mao’s radical 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution that Christians had been compelled to make such declarations, under pain of expulsion from school and the loss of welfare benefits.

A Christian pastor in the Henan city of Nanyang said crosses, Bibles and furniture were burned during a raid on his church Wednesday (Sept. 5).

The pastor, who asked not to be identified to avoid repercussions from authorities, said several people entered the church just as it opened its doors at 5 a.m. and began removing items.

He said the church had been in discussions with local authorities who demanded it “reform” itself, but no agreement had been reached or official documents released.

Chinese law requires religious believers to worship only in congregations registered with the authorities, but many millions belong to so-called underground or house churches that defy government restrictions.

A local official reached by phone at the Nanyang city government disputed the account, saying officials respected religious freedom. The man declined to give his name, as is common with Chinese bureaucrats, while a person answering phones at the local religious affairs bureau said they were “not clear” about the matter.

In Beijing, the Zion church was shut on Sunday by around 60 government workers who arrived at 4:30 p.m. accompanied by buses, police cars and fire trucks, the church’s pastor, Ezra Jin Mingri, said Monday. Zion is known as the largest house church in Beijing, with six branches.

The officials declared the gatherings illegal and sealed off church properties, Jin said, after already freezing the pastor’s personal assets in an apparent attempt to force him to comply with their demands.

“Churches will continue to develop. Blocking the sites will only intensify conflicts,” Jin told The Associated Press by phone.

A notice posted Sunday on the website of the Chaoyang district government in Beijing said the Zion Church had been closed because it failed to register with the government.

All of China’s officially recognized religions appear to have been affected by the crackdown. In the most extreme example, an estimated 1 million Uighurs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the country’s northwest have been arbitrarily detained in indoctrination camps where they are forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the Communist Party.

The government says it is taking necessary measures to eliminate extremism but denies setting up the camps.

China has an estimated 38 million Protestants, and experts have predicted that the country will have the world’s largest Christian population in a few decades.

About the author

Christopher Bodeen/ Associated Press

14 Comments

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  • So YOUR only comment was to make a snide remark about other people commenting.

    Not standing up for good Christian folk being persecuted. Not showing us anger at what an unfree society does with religious believers.

    Just a stupid comment to “stick it to the liberals”.

    Pathetic.

  • While Putin may not be burning religious paraphernalia, he is restricting the practice of authorized religions to registered houses of worship. No recruiting on the street corners, in homes, or electronically. And we all now how deeply #45 is indebted to his handler.

  • The connection exists here:
    #45’s U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom, Sam Brownback, is deafeningly silent on these Christians as well as those under the iron fist of Putin.

  • History has shown religion don’t want to save souls and feed people, they want to take over governments and countries. America was founded for the catholic church of spain and by puritans who were kicked out of england and holland. But in spite of our constitution the protestants and catholics are still trying to take over our govt 400 years later. China can see that if they let religion do what it wants their govt will fall. Not because people love Jesus, but because people that love Jesus can’t stand it when everyone doesn’t love Jesus, even if it’s by force.

    It’s why our founders separated church and state.

    Stay strong China.

  • In some parts of China, there is less persecution of Christians. In other parts of China, persecution is alarming. To my brothers and sisters in China, remember the Prophet Jeremiah. His life-long ministry was very difficult. Only two converts and much strong opposition. Even the king tried to damage the ministry by burning the Scroll of Jeremiah’s Word of the Lord. The Lord told Jeremiah to rewrite the scroll and add more judgments to it. Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against his Church.

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