China demolishes and closes Christian churches amid religious crackdown

Chinese authorities have demolished one Catholic church in the city of Xi'an and closed down a Protestant church in the Xinjiang region amidst an ongoing crackdown on religious groups not sanctioned by the state.

(REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon)Believers take part in a weekend mass at an underground Catholic church in Tianjin November 10, 2013.

In late December, authorities in the town of Shijing in Xi'an's Huyi district demolished a Catholic church, according to local sources. The move prompted 300 worshippers to protest in front of the district government offices against the crackdown on religious liberty, Radio Free Asia detailed.

The Catholic church in Shijing was built in 1999, and a document was released declaring the "permanent" use of the land by the church. However, local officials put up a notice on Dec. 20, 2017 that stated the construction of the house of worship was not authorized.

Local bishop Wu Qinjing spoke to RFA's Mandarin Service and said the local authorities have already apologized for demolishing their church. The parish priest is also heading talks with government officials over the issue.

In Huocheng county in Xinjiang, authorities shuttered the entrance of the Qingshuihe town church, China Aid Association News Network has learned. Church pastor Lou Yuanqi told RFA that they were informed on Dec. 31 that they were not allowed to gather there, and now, they have nowhere to hold their prayer services.

"They told us on Dec. 31 that we do not have permission to gather there," Pastor Lou told RFA. "The door is now sealed, this time by the Public Security Bureau, and we are worshiping in a scattered way."

Meanwhile, in the city of Wenzhou, local Christians have not allowed a ban on Sunday School to stop them from teaching children about Jesus and the Bible. Churches are now  moving the lessons to private locations and have rescheduled them to Saturdays, while some labeled the classes as daycare instead of education, Reuters reported.

One parent called Chen, who requested for media not to use her full name, said they prioritized their Christian faith over the children's grades. She added that Bible classes are important for their kids because the state education does not provide the moral and spiritual guidance needed by the children.