China: Old Churches Demolished, New Ones Not Approved

Defrauded by the CCP, congregations of state-approved churches are left with nowhere to worship after they agree to tear down their dilapidated buildings.

by An Xin

To stop the spread of religion, the CCP is not shying away from deception and manipulation of believers, fooling them into losing their churches for good. Even if the authorities’ actions go against the decisions that they had taken themselves.

Like in a county of the central province of Henan, where the government stopped issuing permits for the reconstruction of demolished or relocated churches, despite an active order issued last year. The document, titled Key Tasks and Divisions of Labor of Phase Three of Units Directly Under the County Government, stipulates: “Apart from the reconstruction of demolished and relocated buildings or reconstruction on the original site for safety reasons, suspend approvals of religious venues.” The government is still refusing to approve the permits for state-run Three-Self churches that were promised to be rebuilt in new locations or on the original site after they were demolished because of their dilapidated state.

This is not an isolated case – state-approved congregations are losing their churches across the country and are left with no place practice their faith.

Churches tricked into demolition

According to a Three-Self church member from the eastern province of Zhejiang, in June 2017, the county government demolished an officially-approved Three-Self church under the pretense of “rebuilding the old city.” Before the demolition, the authorities reached an agreement with the director of the church, promising to complete the approval process for rebuilding the church within one year.

Believers gathered outside the church before its planned demolition.

Two years have passed, but the approval for the construction of the new church has not been issued, despite the church director’s repeated requests.

In Ningde city in the southeastern province of Fujian, the director of a Three-Self church has repeatedly applied to the local government, asking to build a new church because the current one was too small to fit all congregation members.

Finally, in June last year, the local Religious Affairs Bureau agreed to the construction of a new church. The old church had to be demolished, and the new one would be built on the same site, the Bureau’s officials promised. First, though, approvals had to be obtained from other government departments.

Hoping to have a new, larger church, the congregation agreed to the demolition, and the construction of the new church began. However, the process was soon stopped because the government claimed that the church’s documentation was incomplete. If the construction were not halted, officials threatened to destroy the building equipment on the site.

Work came to a halt after the government obstructed the construction of the new church’s foundation.

“From the time we applied until now, we’ve negotiated with the government at least ten times. They use aerial photography; and as soon as construction work begins, personnel from the relevant departments come to intervene and halt the process,” one of the church’s believers said. “The director of the church went to various departments to request approvals, but they kept passing the buck and shifting responsibility back and forth. The Religious Affairs Bureau had agreed that the new church could be built, but now they say that there is a new policy and that construction work must be stopped.”

The believer added that people of faith have to be very careful when opposing the government. “The campaign to ‘clean up gang crime and eliminate evil’ is implemented now. We don’t dare to argue with the government, lest they accuse us of ‘gathering a crowd and making a disturbance’ and punish us under the pretext of the campaign,” the man explained.

Churches kept in disrepair to stop their growth

A Three-Self church in Fujian’s Longyan city applied for reconstruction because the building has become derelict, dangerous for the congregation to meet. But the government created innumerable obstacles, intentionally making it impossible for the church to get necessary permits.

Last August, the church director brought all necessary documentation and a written application to a government department to apply for reconstruction, but officials said that the “construction is prohibited” and that “no one dares to give you approval,” refusing the application on the grounds that the church’s “documentation is useless.”

“I don’t know how much I’ve spent on travels to get the approval. I asked the Construction Bureau, the Planning Bureau, and the Land and Resources Bureau, but it was fruitless. They told me that Xi Jinping’s policies are too strict now; no matter what connections I use, it’s useless,” the director of the church said helplessly.

Since the church was too dilapidated and was in danger of collapsing at any time, the director decided to start building the new church without the permit. But the local law enforcement repeatedly blocked construction work and threatened to tear down whatever had been built. Due to the repeated obstructions, the construction was forced to stop.

Last November, a Three-Self church in Fujian’s Zhangping city was identified as a “dilapidated building” after having fallen into disrepair over the years. The director of the church applied to the local government to rebuild the church on the original site. Although all of the church’s documentation was in order, the approval was refused on the grounds that “the road is narrow and firetrucks cannot pass through” and that the church “cannot be too close to a residential area.”

The interior of the Three-Self church in Zhangping city that has applied for a reconstruction permit but was denied.

According to local government insiders, Religious Affairs Bureau officials want to keep the church in its current state, so it doesn’t grow too quickly or recruit too many believers.

“This is what the Communist Party always does. The CCP is materialistic and atheistic; it is the archenemy of Christianity,” said a local preacher, adding that the government doesn’t approve to reconstruct churches to restrain the development of Christianity.

Source: Bitter Winter