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Religious crackdown in Henan intensifies

HONG KONG (UCAN): Beijing’s crackdown on Catholic and Protestant churches in Henan, is intensifying in seven out of 10 dioceses in Henan province with buildings demolished and raided as well as hundreds of Bibles and holy books confiscated. 
 
A source said that in Hutuo village, Xicun town of Gongyi City in Luoyang Diocese, a Catholic church and the priests’ residence were demolished on April 17. The priests were also driven away.
 
Hutuo is the hometown of late Bishop Li Hongye of the unofficial Church. His tombstone was demolished for the second time. It was first destroyed in 2011, only 10 days after he had been buried but it was later reinstalled.
 
Two priests from the same diocese were driven out of their parish on April 1 and their belongings plus church property were confiscated, another source said.
 
At Beixishangcun Catholic Church in Xinxiang, on April 18, children’s bibles and holy books were taken away by security personnel. The authorities also asked to remove the church’s cross and took over the parish finances.
 
Prayer books, song books and the bibles of Shuanghuaishu Church, Jiayou Church and Youfancun Church in Zhengzhou, were also confiscated.
 
Officials stormed several churches in Zhengzhou and drove children away during Easter Sunday Mass. Since then, police vehicles have been stationed outside churches every Sunday, and at least three officers have blocked minors, and even babies, from entering churches.
 
One Catholic, who requested anonymity, said that officials of the Religious Affairs Bureau of Huiji district went to the North Church of Zhengzhou Diocese on April 1, Easter Sunday, and ordered all minors to leave the Mass.
 
The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and Catholic Administration Commission of Henan have a joint circular warning people to take the revised regulations on religious affairs seriously.
 
It warned people to follow “the principle of religion and education separation” and the revised regulations on religious affairs. It said no religious venue should hold training sessions and no children should be brought to church by parents.   
 
“It was only propaganda and education previously, but now there is a red line, a high-pressure line, so take it seriously,” the circular said.
 
It warned that if anyone did not follow the rules, authorities would pursue the person responsible and close the venue.
 
In the diocese of Shangqiu, authorities made door-to-door visits telling people that believing in religions is prohibited and that if anyone was against this policy, their children would not be allowed to attend school and subsidies for the elderly would be deducted. They were also told that if the authorities found that they still offended, they would be terminated from their jobs and no wages would be given to retirees in the same family. Religious couplets posted on the front door of homes were also smashed.
 
Meanwhile, two primary schools in Henan issued an open letter to all students and parents warning them about the new religious laws.
 
The Ninth Primary School of Linzhou in Anyang, and the First Primary School of Chengguan in Xingyang, Chengzhou, said that minors were not allowed to enter religious venues, according to Article 36 of the Constitution, the Education Act, Minors Protection Law and the revised regulations on religious affairs.
 
“No one may use religions to disrupt social order, harm citizens or impede the national education system,” the letter said.
 
It stated that China had adopted the principle of separating education and religion, so religions must not intervene in national and public education.
 
“It is an offence for any organisations or individuals to guide, support, permit and condone minors to believe in religions or participate in religious activities,” the letter said.
 
Parents were asked to sign the letter and write down their children’s names and classes.
 
Sources said that the crackdown is being overseen by the province’s new governor, 62-year-old Wang Guosheng. The state-run Xinhua News Agency said that Wang replaced Xie Fuzhan, who held the post for only two years, in mid-March. Xie, is said to be a factional follower of the president, Xi Jinping.
 
“The governor (Xie) was criticised and the provincial party committee secretary was replaced,” a source explained adding that this occurred after officials visited the province and found that many Protestant churches had been set up in Xihua and Luoning counties.
 
“Wang has been busy and says he will only take a year to rectify the province,” the source said. 

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