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Cameras for security not police priest explains

XIKAI (UCAN): The continued surveillance of Catholic people by authorities in China now has people jumpy over security cameras installed at churches.

The installation of security cameras at St. Joseph’s church in Xikai, downtown Tianjin City, has raised concerns among local parishioners.

Although Church authorities say that the surveillance cameras were installed at the historic church to protect it against burglary, some parishioners are saying they are worried that the recorded images may be sent to the police.

One parishioner, who identified himself only as John, said that although cameras are common in many public places in mainland China, installing them in private locations, such as at a church, is not appropriate.

He added that people in general tend to resent things like that and it is the duty of the government to maintain social order, not private bodies.

He said that in his opinion, security cameras do not belong in churches.

Another man, identifying himself only as Joseph, said that a higher level of vigilance from the security guards would provide more effective security than the cameras.

Other churches in China have installed cameras for security purposes, but seldom advertise the fact. In contrast, the Xikai parish posted a notice about the cameras on its Website last week.

Ma Bao, a lay leader in Xikai, said periodic burglaries over the last two years have made security a pressing issue, even leading the parish to get two guard dogs.

“Since that time, there had been no burglary… until two weeks ago, when the dogs were stolen! As a result, some parishioners suggested security cameras be installed and donated the money for them,” he said.

The Church in Xikai is built in baroque style. Construction was begun in 1917 and it is the largest church in Tianjin municipality. It is also conveniently located near a biggish shopping area.

“Anybody is free to enter our Church, which opens its doors for 12 hours a day,” the parish priest, Father Leo Zhang Liang, said.

Father Zhang noted that the parish had lost sacred vessels, vestments, Mass offerings and electrical wiring in recent years.

“Setting up the cameras is only for security. With them, now we can try and trace burglars from the recorded images,” he explained.

He also assured people who are concerned about how the images recorded by the cameras may be used that they will be deleted after a certain period of time and not be shared with any outside individual or organisation.

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