CHINA – Clergy banned from visiting hospitals in Zhejiang province
In the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang the authorities have banned all kinds of religious activity in Wenzhou’s Central Hospital. In a public notice to the patients and their visitors it was announced that “Religious activities are banned in this hospital.” This means that Christian pastors are no longer allowed to visit the hospital to preach and pray for the sick.
This is all the more surprising as the Central Hospital historically was established as a Protestant hospital. A hospital employee whose name cannot be revealed said “Religious activities in hospitals have never been encouraged … but some people have been doing it on the quiet, which is understandable, seeing that we are all here to support patients.”
Pastor Ma Ke from Guangzhou spoke out against the notice which he believed reflects how the state is increasingly interfering with the religious freedom of the Chinese people. He said “They are interfering with people’s religious beliefs, which is against the constitution … because Chinese citizens should have the freedom to choose their religion, or to have no religion.”
Banning religious activities in hospitals is considered to be the latest crackdown against Christianity. Local reports indicate that the Communist Party of China is becoming anxious about the growth and expansion of Christianity in China, particularly in the city of in Zhejiang. Wenzhou has been called “China’s Jerusalem” because of the relatively high concentration of Christians in the city.
Harassment and persecution of Christians in the province starts two years ago in 2014 when authorities in Zhejiang started to remove crosses from church buildings. Pastors and Christians who protested against the destruction received long prison sentences. Many human rights organisations and lawyers are currently working to stop demolition of churches and defend church leaders who have been arrested.