HONG KONG (UCAN): A statue St. John Wu Wenyin, a martyr, was removed from a Catholic church in Hebei province as Chinese authorities continued their clampdown on religious freedom.
The statue of St. John Wu Wenyin was unveiled at Dongertou Catholic Church, Yongnian parish, Handan Diocese, on May 3, but a source said that authorities asked the church to remove it after the ceremony “stirring up a commotion on the internet.”
St. John Wu was tortured and executed during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, and was canonised by the St. Pope John Paul II in October 2000.
The removal of the statue follows an uptick in repression against Christians across China, particularly in Henan, the province with the most Christians.
The crackdown on Catholic and Protestant communities is the outcome of more than two years of organisation and preparation at provincial, city and county level through the Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly powerful United Front Work Department, Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said recently.
“After examining (president) Xi Jinping’s new religious policy, there is reason to believe the party’s central committee is trying to suppress rapid growth among religions,” he said.
The statue was removed by diocesan officials who hope to put it back soon.
A blogger named Yifeng, who is suspected of having an official information channel, wrote an article saying that putting up the statue obviously contradicted the political position of the party, the state and One Association and One Conference (the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the bishops’ conference).
He said, “This is a public humiliation and contempt for people and the Church in China and it is something that we absolutely cannot tolerate and accept.”
Yifeng noted this was the first time that the Church on the mainland had erected a statue of one of the saints canonised in 2000—an action he labelled as “brazenly declaring war against the principle of independence, autonomy and self-running of the Church.”
He believed that if the issue was not dealt with, all dioceses across China would follow suit. He also described it as “an openly unscrupulous expression of position, which is so hideous.”