Communist China is Suppressing Christians 'Under COVID-19 Cover'
Report reveals Chinese government using pandemic to shut down churches
The Communist Party of China (CPC) is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to shut down Christian worship, according to a new report.
In one example cited in the Friday report from UCANews, Chinese government officials prevented hundreds of underground Christians in China from celebrating the Feast of the Assumption on August 15.
In the East, the event is one of the most important feasts in the Christian liturgical calendar.
For Eastern Orthodox and Catholics, the Assumption is considered one of the major celebrations along with Easter and Christmas.
During the period, all the faithful gather in their parish churches on these days for solemn liturgical celebrations.
Early on in the pandemic, however, the ruling Chinese Communist Party started using the crisis as an excuse to tighten its grip on religious activities, bulldozing some churches while placing others under heavy surveillance.
In February, the Religious Affairs Bureau of the northeastern province of Jilin issued a document calling on authorities to “rectify” house churches, which are considered illegal by the government, according to Breitbart.
The document instructed local officials to investigate house churches 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, stated a report by Bitter Winter.
"China is now holding itself up as a model for fighting the coronavirus,” Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the nonprofit group Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), said at the time.
"But fighting the pandemic hasn’t stopped communist officials from persecuting Christians."
Chinese officials issued orders that effectively banned “unregistered” religious services on the grounds of public health.
As the spread of the virus has been contained, China has already opened most major public venues, including movie theaters, from earlier lockdowns, but they have kept most churches closed, citing health concerns.
This is especially true of churches belonging to the unofficial, or “underground,” Catholic Church, and this August, most of these churches in Shenyang, Liaoning province, have remained closed.
Some underground priests reportedly silently rebelled against the orders, celebrating Masses for smaller groups in private homes of the faithful.
“The priest held Masses in several places, each with about 10 people,” said Teresa Jia, an underground Christian, in reference to her own situation.
“Things are better in Shenyang, where there are no conflicts between the underground and open churches.
"The government more severely suppresses the underground ones.”
Ms. Jia said that she sometimes attends Masses in the state-run open church but noted that during the epidemic, “the government has tightened the restrictions on open churches, too.”
Paul Lu, a sacristan in a northern Chinese church, said that government officials have used the lockdowns to try to coerce underground Catholic priests to join the official church, threatening to shut down their parish churches if they fail to comply.
Lu said that authorities closed his own church on August 9 and kept it shut for the August 15 feast, saying they needed to carry out epidemic checks.
“This is obviously the government threatening the priest to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association,” Lu said.
In the northern Anhui province, officials shut down several underground churches, allegedly for reasons of the pandemic, but allowed the state-sanctioned church to continue holding Masses.
As a result, many underground Catholics found themselves obliged to attend Mass at the state church.
Even in cases where churches have been allowed to hold liturgical services, state officials stand at the entry, restricting the number of people permitted to enter the church, witnesses said.
Children are no longer permitted to attend church services at all.