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Crackdown hits Protestant Churches in several provinces

HONG KONG (UCAN): A Protestant group, HKBCBS, has urged people express discontent with mainstream Protestant Churches in the Hong Kong turning a blind eye to the recent crackdown on Protestant Churches in China.
In a September 12 post on the group’s Facebook page, Yeung Ho-yin, the group’s founder, noted that the crackdown is thought to be the largest since the Cultural Revolution.
He said the suppression started in Henan in late August as the provincial government demolished crosses, burned Bibles, arrested members and seized churches. It soon spread to other cities and provinces. 
“The government is planning to tighten preaching on the Internet,” he wrote.
Yeung said 90 per cent of Hong Kong’s Protestant Churches had kept silent. “Do the Hong Kong Churches honour God or Emperor Xi?” he asked.
A few pastors have voiced concerns and some Protestant communities are planning meetings to raise awareness of the issue.
Yeung wrote that the silence on social injustice had long incurred discontent among progressive and radical believers.
According to a September 10 report by Radio France Internationale, more than 7,000 crosses were demolished in Henan, far more than the 1,700 destroyed in Zhejiang since 2014. Not even government-sanctioned Churches have been spared.
The report also said that house Churches that refused to sing the national anthem or accept socialist core values were forcibly dismantled. Government personnel raided churches to remove crosses, smash pianos and furniture, arrest pastors, beat those who resisted, confiscate property and burn Bibles and hymn books.
Two-thirds of Henan’s churches have been forced to close, according to media reports. Many preachers and pastors had to undergo political assessment. Only those who advocated socialist core values were allowed to preach.
In addition, the Zion Church, the largest house Church in Beijing, has also been repressed by authorities.
Seven Zion churches have been forced to close after being accused of holding religious activities without registration, but one pastor said house Churches had no channel to register under the current system.
Authorities in Wenzhou, in Zhejiang, recently requested schools to investigate students’ religious beliefs.
In Guangzhou, Guangdong, some pastors who run house Churches were penalised by the local government for organising illegal religious gatherings.
In Chengdu, in Sichuan, the Early Rain Covenant Church has been repeatedly disrupted by authorities.
Professor Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in an interview with Voices of Germany that Chinese authorities were suppressing the growth of Protestant Churches, “reflecting (the president) Xi Jinping’s ideological fight and his belief that Protestant Churches threaten the Communist Party.”
The White Paper on Religious Policy, released by the State Council Information Office in April, indicated that China’s Protestant population is more than 38 million, a significant increase of 65 per cent from the 23 million recorded by the Academy of Social Sciences in 2010.
The state-run Global Times published an editorial on September 11 saying that Chinese citizens enjoy full freedom of religious belief but that religions need to be managed according to the law. 
“And management is needed since, in some places, people are violating the law to organise illegal activities,” it said.
It claimed it is almost impossible for outsiders to fully understand China’s religious affairs as there is a serious ideological difference between China and the West, but the management of religious affairs in China has “the backbone to resolutely act according to the law.”
Jin Mingri, a pastor and director of the Zion Church, said the government is obviously hostile to religions and believes that all religious communities including Islam, Buddhism and Catholicism should be politicised.

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