China Bans Christians from Holding Religious Funerals as Government Crackdown Continues

DIVIDED DEVOTEES: Christians attend a Sunday service at Shouwang Church in Beijing in 2010. The Catholic community in China is divided between a state-sanctioned church and an underground church that swears allegiance to the pope. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

Christians across China are prohibited from holding religious funerals for their deceased loved ones as the Communist Party continues to tighten its grip on the regulation of religion and religious activity.

Bitter Winter, a magazine documenting human rights and religious freedom abuses in China, reported that authorities throughout the country are enforcing policies that prohibit religious customs and rituals to be used during funerals.

In December, the government of Wenzhou city’s Pingyang county in the eastern province of Zhejiang adopted the Regulations on Centralized Funeral Arrangement.

Under the new rules, “clerical personnel are not allowed to participate in funerals,” and “no more than ten family members of the deceased are allowed to read scriptures or sing hymns in a low voice.”

The new rules aim to “get rid of bad funeral customs and establish a scientific, civilized, and economical way of funerals.”

Similarly, a village official from the central province of Henan told Bitter Winter that the local government convened a meeting for religious work assistants in April, informing them that all religious funerals are restricted.

Soon after, officials issued a document stipulating that clerical personnel should be “timely stopped from using religion to intervene in citizens’ weddings and funerals or other activities in their lives.”

In Wuhan, police stormed the funeral of a Christian member of a government-regulated Three-Self Church and arrested her daughter, who was praying for her mother at the time. The daughter was only released after the deceased was buried without Christian rituals two days later.

Last April, officials broke up an 11-person Christian funeral in the province of Henan that was honoring a deceased member of the congregation. Officials accused attendees of “hiding” their actions in the countryside and threatened them with jail time. The police registered the personal contact information of the attendees and told them that they could be investigated at any time.

“When my father died, village officials threatened to arrest us if we didn’t conduct a secular funeral. We did not dare to go against them,” a villager from Gucheng town in Henan’s county-level city of Yuzhou told Bitter Winter.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett