At 8:30 a.m. on April 12, a team from the Xining City Chengxi District Urban and Rural Construction Bureau began the two-hour long demolition process of Donghu Church, labelling the church as illegal while citing “safety concerns.”
The nearly 20-year-old church received approval in 2003 to become a Three-Self Church by meeting the official requirements. It is the oldest and largest church in the Chengxi district with more than 300 members.
According to IPK Media, the Xining City Government and Li Zhennan, the head of the local religious bureau, have been hard at work cracking down on religion. They have attempted to shut down Donghu Church many times. As early as December 2017, the fire department intended to close the church in the name of safety concerns. Thanks to a stand-off from dozens of church members, the order was suspended.
Following the suspension, the church purchased a new hall and informed the local religious bureau and fire department in 2018. Yet, when the church applied to move to the new location in April 2018, the religious bureau disapproved and prevented the church from renovating the hall, demanding that the church sell this property and purchase elsewhere instead.
In response, the church picked another location in 2019, but was again denied. The church has since been meeting in a hotel as a result, yet was told that it cannot hold “illegal gatherings” or else it would be banned.
China Aid also reports that last December, the local authorities cut off the church’s electricity after the fire department claimed that the church failed to meet fire safety requirements. The congregation worshipped in darkness for two weeks. The leader of the church, Li Xuejiao, said that her church was asked to shut down immediately and would be demolished in 2020.
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “Easter is one of the most celebrated holidays for Christians, yet the Qinghai authorities deliberately picked this day to tear down Donghu Church. This malicious act shows how the Chinese government has no regard for religious freedom even though its constitution guarantees it. Under President Xi Jinping, even the Three-Self churches are no longer safe from the crackdown against churches. The government would like all churches to believe in the Chinese Communist Party, not God.”
Source: Press release from ICC dated 4-15-2020
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