According to religious liberty watchdog groups, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is using the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to ramp up persecution of Christians and other religious believers, bulldozing some churches and placing others under heavier surveillance than ever before.
“China is now holding itself up as a model for fighting the coronavirus. But fighting the pandemic hasn’t stopped communist officials from persecuting Christians,” Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the nonprofit group Voice of the Martyrs, told Fox News last week.
Bob Fu of China Aid, another activist organization, shared a video of Chinese officials demolishing a church in the city of Yixing:
Religious persecution continues even in the midst of #WuhanVirus March 11 Xiangbaishu Church in Yixing city, Jiangsu province was destroyed by #CCP govt. Cross is our Glory大疫当前，江苏宜兴香柏树教会,于3.11日遭到强拆.举国上下深感人民的苦难，但谁知道在十字架上那位上帝之子的苦难？ pic.twitter.com/wp35ZexYIu
— Bob Fu傅希秋 (@BobFu4China) March 15, 2020
According to Breitbart, other churches have reportedly been vandalized by CCP officials and “unregistered” religious services have been banned on the grounds of public health.
One small silver lining to the pandemic crisis, Voice of the Martyrs noted, was the prevalence of medical masks, allowing Christians to evade China’s facial recognition-equipped surveillance systems and preach somewhat more freely with less fear of being identified and caught.
According to Bitter Winter, Buddhists and Taoists have also reported demolition of their temples right around the time the coronavirus broke out in Wuhan. Worshipers said that local officials have a habit of suddenly deciding that certain temples failed to meet obscure building codes, in spite of being built with their approval, and must be demolished immediately.
“Unconditional cooperation with the government means that no photos of the demolition can be taken, no negotiations initiated, and no compensation demanded. This is typical behavior of the CCP government,” one Buddhist told Bitter Winter.
“The Communist Party is as evil as a mafia. Under the tyranny of those modern bandits, even sacred Buddhist temples cannot enjoy peace,” said another.
Those churches that are allowed to remain standing are then loaded with surveillance cameras, which Bitter Winter believes is a ploy to build up “evidence” of incorrect speech that can be used as an excuse to demolish the church later:
According to a Three-Self preacher from Lankao county in Henan’s Kaifeng city, powerful cameras, over 10,000 RMB (about $ 1,400) each, have been installed in at least eight Three-Self churches, images from which are displayed on a large screen in the hall of the county’s Two Chinese Christian Councils. Who leads Sunday services, what sermons are about, and how many congregation members are present—everything is under the government’s close surveillance.
“The surveillance equipment is powerful; it can catch every single word in the church,” a Three-Self church director in Lankao county explained. “We can get into trouble for making an incautious remark. Believers don’t dare to even chitchat with each other under such surveillance.” He once received a phone call from a local official less than one hour after he complained about the government.
In August 2019, over 100 cameras were installed in several Three-Self churches in Yi’nan county in Linyi, a prefecture-level city in the eastern province of Shandong. A local government insider revealed to Bitter Winter that the Religious Affairs Bureau and United Front Work Department use the cameras to monitor activities in churches, and those refusing to have cameras installed would be shut down.
Churches have already learned the hard way that unplugging these security cameras is a crime and swiftly punished by arrest, interrogation, confiscation of church property, and quite possibly demolition of the church or even the pastor’s personal residence.
Breitbart also reports that the CCP now grades churches on a 100-point scale of obedience, deducting points for offenses such as improperly displayed Communist flags, and shuts houses of worship down if their score falls under 60.
Saints, we must never forget our brothers and sisters suffering such intense persecution across the world. Should we ever be subject to the same treatment, may we glorify God through it and count it all joy to be worthy to suffer for His name.
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