The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has continued its crackdown on Christian house churches as the world reels under the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, according to a report Wednesday from Bitter Winter.
In February, the Religious Affairs Bureau of the northeastern province of Jilin issued a document calling on authorities to “rectify” house churches, which are deemed illegal by the government.
The document instructed local officials to investigate house church and collect information on “when they were established, who is in charge of them, and how large the congregations are” as a first step to shutting them down altogether, the report stated.
The government also plans to shut down all seminaries, training classes, kindergartens, regular and Sunday schools run by house churches, according to a “government insider,” while also suppressing all online religious activities.
As Breitbart News reported last week, the CCP has been using the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic as an excuse to intensify its crackdown on religion, bulldozing some churches and placing others under heavy surveillance.
“China is now holding itself up as a model for fighting the coronavirus. But fighting the pandemic hasn’t stopped communist officials from persecuting Christians,” said Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the nonprofit group Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), in late March.
Chinese officials have reportedly vandalized other churches and ordered a ban on “unregistered” religious services on the grounds of public health.
The CCP’s coronavirus control group in Nenjiang, in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, issued an order on February 20 forbidding individuals and organizations from providing venues for “illegal religious activities” allegedly to curb the spread of the epidemic, Bitter Truth reported Wednesday.
The United Front Work Department should “resolutely shut down illegal religious venues,” the order stated, while also offering a monetary reward to local residents who report these venues to the authorities.
The coronavirus epidemic has provided a convenient justification for the CCP to continue what it was already doing: persecuting house churches as “unstable elements” that threaten the regime.
Officials closed down more than ten house churches in Hangzhou, the capital of the eastern province of Zhejiang, between late October and January, and another was closed in the city’s Jianggan district on January 5.
Local authorities said that they were following instructions from the central government to close down all house churches, Bitter Winter reported.