A Christian man was arrested and at least two women were injured in China’s Henan province after 200 communist officials stormed into Sunzhuang Church, which is part of a network of government-run churches, and brought it down using cranes and heavy-duty machinery.
The officials from the Zhengzhou High-Tech District’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau did not show any legal documents when they demolished the church on June 12, the U.S.-based group China Aid said in a statement this week.
They threw the church’s furniture and other belongings out of the building before razing it, reported China Aid, which helps those who are persecuted by the Communist Party in China.
A Christian woman who tried to resist the officials lost consciousness after being pushed to the ground. She and another female member of the church who was beaten had to be hospitalized, the group said, and a male church attendee was taken into custody.
Sunzhuang Church joined the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in June 2012, when the communist government allowed it to build a new church building. After the building had been constructed in June 2013, the church received eviction and demolition notices from the Sunzhuang village authorities.
China Aid said the 2013 decision to demolish the church was made without the villagers' consent and authorities were barred from carrying out the demolition at the time. Instead, vehicles owned by Henan province threw tons of dirt and rocks at the church’s doorway. Officials also cut off electricity and water to the church.
The Italian-based magazine Bitter Winter, a publication produced by the Center for Studies on New Religion which covers human rights issues in China, reported earlier this month that authorities removed crosses from more than 250 state-sanctioned churches in Anhui province between January and April.
“All Christian symbols are ordered to be removed as part of the government’s crackdown campaign,” a provincial employee from Ma’anshan city was quoted as saying.
China’s crackdown on religion and religious minorities has drawn scrutiny from international actors such as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, rights groups, and the U.S. State Department.
In its 2020 annual report, USCIRF noted that not only have authorities removed crosses from churches across the nation, but they have also banned youth age 18 and younger from participating in religious services.
Reports have also indicated that authorities have required that some churches remove pictures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary inside of their buildings and replace them with images of President Xi Jinping.
On Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, China is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians. The organization notes that all churches are perceived as a threat if they become too large, too political, or invite foreign guests.
Gina Goh, a regional manager for International Christian Concern in Southeast Asia, recently said that China had resumed its crackdown on Christianity after the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic had reduced.
“In recent weeks, we have seen an increased number of church demolitions and cross removals on state-sanctioned churches across China, as house church gatherings continue to face interruption and harassment. It is deplorable that the local authorities not only conducted this raid without proper procedure but deployed excessive use of force against church members and bystanders,” she said.