A state-vetted Chinese church has been demolished over so-called "safety concerns." Authorities bulldozed Donghu Church in China’s Qinghai province on Easter Sunday, much to the dismay of its members, many of whom have been worshipping there for two decades.
In 2003, Donghu obtained to become a "Three-Self Church" -- the Chinese government's official register of state-approved congregations. It is the oldest and largest church in the Chengxi district with more than 300 members. According to IPK Media, the Xining City Government has been teaming up with Li Zhennan, the head of the local religious bureau, to engage in a massive crackdown on the Christian faith.
For a couple of years now, authorities have conspired to have Donghu closed for good. In December 2017, the fire department attempted to shut it down over safety concerns. It was only after a large group of parishioners showed up in protest that the firefighters were ordered to stand down.
Despite acquiring a safe new hall, the church was denied permission by the bureau to renovate the new premises. The church subsequently picked another location in 2019, but was denied once again. According to persecution watchdog China Aid, local authorities severed the church’s electricity supply recently, forcing the congregation to worship in darkness for two weeks. The leader of the church, Li Xuejiao, said that authorities had threatened to demolish the building in 2020. On Easter Sunday, that threat became a reality.
Andrew Boyd from relgious freedom charity Release Intertinoal told Premier Christian News : " The fire brigades say the building was not up to adequate safety standards and that sounds reasonable on the face of it, but that's the same reason that's being given for the tearing down of at least 1,800 church crosses across China for fear that they might fall on somebody.
"But those crosses are being replaced with Chinese flags. Churches have been required to sing Chinese anthems they are as putting in place within churches. Security Police who are usingartificial intelligence face recognition cameras to track members of the congregation.
"When you look at the entire trend that's happening here, you see that actually China is not just clamping down on the unofficial, unapproved, illegal so called underground church. It's beginning to clamp down on all churches."
Recently, a group of Christians from an underground megachurch were detained in their own homes after participating in an Easter service celebrations over Zoom. The key members and leaders from Early Rain Covenant Church were arrested by police officers as they listened to a sermon by their imprisoned leader, Pastor Wang Yi, who has been openly critical of the country's communist government.
Listen to Andrew Boyd speaking with Premier's Tola Mbakwe here: