State-sponsored churches in parts of China that were forced to close due to COVID-19 lockdowns are only permitted to reopen if they hand money over to the Chinese Communist Party, according to a new report.
A Three-Self church director from Heze, a prefecture-level city in the eastern province of Shandong, told Bitter Winter that state-run churches in the area have been ordered to collect money for coronavirus-affected areas. According to the director, officials from the local Religious Affairs Bureau threatened to shut down many churches if they did not donate.
Authorities in Zhangcun town issued donation quotas ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 RMB (between $560 and $1,400) to Three-Self churches, while Christians in Xianju were ordered to donate 100 RMB (about $14) to Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Churchgoers in Zhejiang’s Hangzhou city were also forced to donate,” according to a Three-Self church director. “Some elderly congregation members live alone and have no sources of income, but are also forced to give money.”
When Christians requested to give their money directly to victims of the pandemic instead of filtering it through the government, officials from religious affairs departments refused.
While the CCP has exploited places of worship amid the coronavirus pandemic, Christians are also targeted during regular times. Bitter Winter notes that last year, believers were forced to contribute to poverty alleviation or other government’s “charity” projects.
“Last year, the Religious Affairs Bureau demanded us to collect money to fix a slide on a kindergarten playground,” a deacon from a Three-Self church in Henan’s Zhumadian city told Bitter Winter. “Government departments ask us for charitable donations every year. If we refuse, our church will be closed.”
The CCP has also targeted Buddhist temples, demanding they donate to the areas hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak or remain closed.