Chinese security officers assaulted a number of priests and laypersons last week in China’s northern Shanxi province as the Christians tried to defend church property from demolition.
Government officials beat Fathers Chen Jun, Gao Binglong, Ma Ning, and Shen Xuezhong as well as several laypersons including Cui Hewen, who was assaulted by workers and suffered injuries to the head. The officials had come to demolish a building belonging to the church, but the priests along with hundreds of laypeople sat in front of backhoes and other heavy machinery to block the demolition work.
Witnessed posted a video of the clash between government representatives and the Christians and the faithful can be heard shouting “Jesus save me!” and “Mother Mary, have pity on us.”
Despite the beatings, news of which went viral on the internet, many more Christians went to the site to give their support to the Church, and reportedly some 2,000 Church members gathered at the property to block the demolition, forcing the workers and security officials to leave the venue.
The incident took place in Wangcun village, part of Changzhi Diocese, on August 29, but Christians fear that the story is not yet over.
“The security officers and workers left only to discuss countermeasures. I fear that they will come back,” said Father Shen, parish priest of Wangcun Church.
While state authorities have said that the orders are part of regulations to “demolish the old and broken,” Christian persecution watchdog groups such as Open Doors and China Aid have warned of a campaign to destroy churches and suppress the rise of Christianity, which continues to grow rapidly in the Communist country.
As Breitbart News reported last month, the U.S. State Department has declared that the Chinese Communist government “physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups” during 2016, in its new International Religious Freedom Report (IRFP).
The abuse of people of faith in their religious practice included members of unregistered Christian churches (also known as “house churches”), the report added.
The IRPF stated that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to exert absolute control over religious activities in the country. “Only religious groups belonging to one of the five state-sanctioned ‘patriotic religious associations’ (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant) were permitted to register with the government and officially permitted to hold worship services,” the report said.
This means that any religious group that does not submit to state control, such as the Roman Catholic Church or Christian “house churches,” has no official status in the country and is subject to regular sanctions and arbitrary harassment.
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