CHINA – Church destroyed and Christians detained in Henan province
China Aid, an international non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting religious freedom and human rights for Christians in China, reported that local authorities in Henan province destroyed a Christian church last month. 300 police officers and inspectors turned up for the demolition of Shuangmiao Christian Church in Shangqiu, which was still under construction.
“The church was completely razed, and a church member likened the scene to the Japanese invasion of China during World War II,” China Aid said. Parishioners who tried to stop the demolition were beaten
and “pushed to the ground.” Church property, as well as that of parishioners and construction workers, was confiscated. 40 parishioners were detained, although no one has yet been formally arrested.
The authorities claim that they ordered the church demolition because it was deemed an “illegal structure.” The Chinese Communist Party also claimed that the church had failed to pay a “road usage fee” that villagers wanted imposed.
Previously, when the church’s pastor had tried to discuss the matter with officials he was detained for “false charges of assaulting the police station, limiting the freedom of others, and attacking a village representative.” After the attack, he is still in detention though has not yet been formally arrested.
Persecution of Christians in China varies in different provinces, but Henan has seen an increase in recent years. In April 2016 Li Jiangong, a pastor in Zhumadian, another city of Henan province, lost his wife when the couple tried to save their house church from being bulldozed in a government-ordered destruction of the church. He “barely escaped” death, according to the most recent annual report from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Zhejiang province is another region where Christians face persecution – over 1,500 churches have been desecrated or demolished and remaining churches in Zhejiang are no longer allowed to display crosses. Christians , including clergy, there have been imprisoned for protesting about removal of crosses from churches.
As China’s leader Xi Jingping has further consolidated power and attempts to impose even tighter control on religion the situation of religious freedom in China has deteriorated considerably in recent years. Religious leaders and human rights activists have been harassed and detained, and churches, especially Christian house churches, have been targeted for destruction or vandalism.
Aid to the Church in Need highlighted this in its 2016 Religious Freedom in the World report.