China’s central Henan province issued a warning on March 8, forbidding any Christian gatherings in the area and placing Christians under house arrest. Additionally, officials continue to tear down couplet door decorations that use Christian language.
According to an anonymous source in Shangqiu, Henan, Christians there have been placed under house arrest without charge, with police officers watching their residence and requiring them to report where they are going every time they wish to leave the house.
“I heard that many churches in Sheqi County also received a notice that believers cannot gather anymore,” a Christian in Nanyang, Henan said. “Christians are afraid of gathering and they don’t have anywhere to gather either. Times have changed. It feels like the Cultural Revolution.”
The Cultural Revolution refers to the period between 1966 and 1976, when Mao Zedong attempted to destroy all influences besides Communism in China, and was a period of great economic and societal hardship, especially for citizens who practiced religion. Atheism began to be enforced as the official religious belief of the Communist Party.
A Christian named Wang spoke with a reporter on March 9, explaining that the day previous, a notice had gone out to all churches in the cities of Zhumadian and Zhoukou, as well as Gushi County, announcing that all religious activities in the area are cancelled until further notice. Though the warning stipulates that any who refuse to comply will be punished, the nature of that punishment is unclear.
In Tanghe County, authorities forcibly disbanded house church meetings and ordered all participants to register with a government operated Three-Self Church instead. Christians were warned that any who continued to meet would be fined 30,000 yuan (U.S. $4,700).
During the celebration of Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, which can last several weeks in China, authorities inspected Christian households and removed any decorations which referenced religion. Couplets, which are banners with paired poetic phrases hung on both sides of the door to a house, are very common decorations for the Spring Festival. However, officials tore down all couplets which used the term “Emmanuel” and replaced them with couplets wishing for “good fortune and wealth” instead.
ChinaAid reports on instances of religious persecution, such as the outbreak of events across Henan province, in order to expose abuses by the Chinese government and promote human rights and rule of law in China.