A dozen more churches in Zhejiang province face destruction today as part of an official demolition campaign against churches labelled as illegal structures. A Pingyang county pastor, who declined to be named, said worshippers from at least three of the county’s churches had vowed to fight the demolition to the end.
“We will definitely guard our churches,” he said, adding that the churches had received the demolition notices last Sunday and their deadline had been postponed to today. It was not immediately clear whether the churches were government-approved ones or if they were unauthorised home churches.
Meanwhile, churches in Pingyang issued a public letter voicing their concerns about the increasingly aggressive campaign to destroy their places of worship. “[The removal of crosses in some churches] has caused deep panic among nearly a hundred thousand believers and swirling rumours in society. It has led to … unrest,” stated the letter, which was circulated online.
In Zhejiang, about 360 churches or buildings with crosses affixed on them have been forcibly torn down in the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign since January, according to United States-based religious rights group China Aid.
The action appears to be a form of religious persecution, but local government officials say the campaign targets only structures that breach building codes.
A Christian man from Pingyang, who declined to be named, said religious policy had tightened so much since January that churches now could hardly get local governments’ approval to extend their structures even if they already had land permits.