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China: 48 churches shut down

July 2020

Churches in China (montage from Bitter Winter)
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Chinese officials have shut down at least 48 state-registered churches and meeting venues in Yugan county, China, between 18 and 30 April.

According to religious liberty and human rights publication Bitter Winter, religious items have been stripped from churches in Yugan county and replaced with images of President Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong.

Chairman Mao presided over China’s Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976, during which all religious expression was banned.

More than 10 percent of the population of one million in Yugan county are Christians, who attend around 300 ‘official’ churches, which are those permitted by the communist government.

However, despite being state-sanctioned, churches were stripped of their crosses and meetings were shut down in April.

One local Christian told Bitter Winter, ‘Whether they demolish a church or a cross, everyone is afraid to challenge them. If you try to protest, they will accuse you of fighting against the Communist Party and the central government.’

As reported by international Christian advocacy organisation Barnabas Fund, in Yangbu town officials demolished the cross belonging to a church in mid-April, and announced that the church building was to be turned into an activity centre for the elderly.

In Yugan’s Daxi township, a local CCP secretary told Christians that it was one of the state’s policies to shut down churches and demolish crosses.

He is reported as saying, ‘Higher echelons of government declared after an inspection that there were too many believers in the county. When so many believe in God, who will listen to the Communist Party?’

The ongoing crackdown in China against churches is part of Xi Jinping’s five-year plan, announced in 2018, to ‘reinterpret’ Christianity according to secular socialist views. It is part of a process of Sincisation, a way of making things Chinese again.

In a series of repressive measures, hundreds of state-sanctioned churches and unregistered congregations have been closed, pastors have been arrested and imprisoned, and surveillance cameras installed inside churches.