A Systematic Policy to Reduce the Number of Religious Venues

The CCP continues to demolish churches, temples, and mosques–and to adopt new regulations to make this easier.

by Xiao Baiming

One year after the new Regulations on Religious Affairs came into effect on February 1, 2018, the State Administration for Religious Affairs adopted The Template for a Charter of Legal Persons in Religious Activity Venues (thereinafter referred to as the Template). The Template, which came into force on April 1, 2019, consisting of six chapters, mandates that religious venues should have legal representatives and “democratic” management committees, have professional accountants and strictly implement government-imposed financial management systems.

Regulations on finance management and other aspects hung in a church.

Article 31 of the Template stipulates that religious venues where activities are unable to continue in accordance with the Charter shall be shut down. This is exactly what is happening to many of them.

As a believer from a Three-Self meeting venue in Yucheng city in the eastern province of Shandong told Bitter Winter, since the Template came into effect last year, church leaders have to attend meetings every month at the Pastoral Level (an administrative division of the Three-Self Church). They have to operate the church according to the regulations produced by the city’s Religious Affairs Bureau. Any venue that fails to meet the standardized management required by the authorities is shut down.

The believer said, “The majority of our church members are elderly believers. It is hard to find a member who is able to use a computer. The church leader, the accountant and the cashier are in their 60s. It is difficult to meet the requirements stated in the Template.”

In fact, in August 2019, the meeting venue to which the believer belongs was shut down for failing to meet the requirements.

A Three-Self church leader from a county, under the jurisdiction of Luoyang city in the central province of Henan, told Bitter Winter that all the churches in the county were required to implement the Template.

The church leader said, “The government demands that every church should have an accountant with a junior or higher accountant qualification certificate to manage its finance. As our church does not have such a person, we have to pay 2,000 RMB (about $ 280) every month to hire such an accountant. With this salary, an accountant is not necessarily willing to work for us, and what’s more, we can’t afford such a large expenditure.”

He added, “The government manages churches through a social model [i.e. a secular model] and imposes pressure on the churches. In the name of ‘normalization,’ it strengthens its control over the churches, and curbs their development, leaving them to die out gradually.”

In January 2019, the State Administration for Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Civil Affairs jointly issued the Notice on Registration of Legal Persons of Religious Venues. It stipulates detailed provisions about religious venues’ application for registration of their legal persons, and many religious venues step back at the sight of the provision that they should “have the necessary property and no less than a 100,000 RMB (about $ 14,000) registered capital.”

The State Administration for Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Civil Affairs jointly issued the Notice on Registration of Legal Persons of Religious Venues. (website screenshot)

“So much registered capital, this is difficult for us. And, after the registration is done, the church money will be controlled by the government,” a pastor from Jingzhou city in the central province of Hubei told Bitter Winter. “The government also restricts the content of the church’s sermons, only allowing the content about core socialist values and the belief in the Communist Party. With one policy after another issued, the state just wants to eliminate the churches that fall out of its control.”
A former Three-Self church member, who refused to submit to the government’s control, now attends worship services at a house church. He told Bitter Winter, “The reason why the government implements the Template is that it wants to extend its control over the personnel and finance of the churches, and completely accomplish the ‘sinicization’ of religion. Protestantism might disintegrate in a few decades in China.” He lamented that even the death of Pastor Song Yongsheng could not reverse the situation of Protestantism.

Song Yongsheng, the president of the Christian Council of Henan’s Shangqiu city, killed himself by jumping from his office on the fifth floor on July 17, 2019, at the age of 54. He left a suicide note, stating that under the control of the local CCP government, the Three-Self Church has been turned into “four unlikes”: unlike a church, unlike a government agency, unlike an association, and unlike a company.

In addition to the crackdown on Christian venues, Buddhist and Taoist temples, Islamic mosques and other religious venues are not spared. The legal representative of a Buddhist temple in Shijiazhuang city in the northern province of Hebei said helplessly, “If we do not act as the Charter requires, our temple will no longer be approved by the government. As China is a single-party state, no one can survive without obeying the CCP.”

Some legal representatives are also concerned about the new Administrative Measures for Religious Groups, which come into effect on February 1, 2020. They order all religions to “disseminate the CCP’s policies.” The religions in China will fall into a worse situation,” a representative said.

Source: Bitter Winter