Chinese netizens expressed their anger over news that the local Changsha government spent £478 million (roughly $597 million) for the construction of a Christian-themed park in Hunan province.
According to the Changsha government website, the 150,000-square meter Changsha Xingsha Ecological Park was sponsored by the government and was handled by the Huashun Construction Project Management Co. Netizens voiced out their outrage over the project, saying the state should not encourage religious practices, The Hindustan Times details.
One user on Chinese social media network Sina Weibo said the government should guard against the incorporation of religion into the country's mainstream ideology. The user also warned that the practice could be detrimental to China's political security.
Another netizen with the usename "Sanxiaren" said Hunan is sacred and should not tolerate the growth of religious practices, considering that it is the birthplace of Mao Zedong.
Global Times notes that the controversial park in Changsha Xingsha Ecological Park holds a Bible institute and a Christian Church, which is due to start its operation in June. It is the biggest Christian park in China's central and southern region. The local Changsha government reportedly spent £478 million (roughly $597 million) for it.
Dai Rihong, the park's construction team representative, explained that the place was intended to be a romantic setting for citizens who want to shoot their wedding photos.
Last month, China Aid released a report on religious persecution in China in 2016. The summary highlights the Communist Party's promotion of the idea of "Sinicizing" religious beliefs. This move means religious groups can be forced to follow the government's agenda.
As part of the Sinicization of religion, China introduced a draft of the Revised Regulations on Religious Affairs. The implementation of these new guidelines involves enacting measures that would force house churches to register under the state-run Three-Self Patriotic Movement.
Aside from that, the government also restricted Muslims' hajj pilgrimage and injected its own values into Islamic teachings. The state explained that the move aims to suppress religious extremism in the country, but human rights organizations say the false terror accusations were just concocted to suppress Islamic practices.