KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 1 June 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

KESTON NEWS SERVICE SPECIAL INVESTIGATION

CHINA: OFFICIAL PRESS CONFIRMS WENZHOU DESTRUCTION
CAMPAIGN. Keston News Service has obtained important documentary
evidence of the extent of the destruction of unregistered religious buildings
in Wenzhou in the province of Zhejiang in south-eastern China at the end of
last year. The evidence from the official Communist-controlled press in
Wenzhou is overwhelming: a carefully planned campaign against `feudal
superstition', lasting from the end of October to December last year, was
unleashed throughout the municipality, destroying hundreds of Buddhist,
Daoist and Christian temples, shrines and churches, carried out with the
explicit approval of the municipal Communist Party and state authorities. All
the legally-registered `patriotic' religious organisations in Wenzhou
(Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist and Daoist) dutifully expressed their
approval of the campaign.

CHINA: OFFICIAL PRESS CONFIRMS WENZHOU DESTRUCTION
CAMPAIGN

by John Fisher, Keston News Service

Keston News Service has obtained important documentary evidence of the
extent of the destruction of unregistered religious buildings in Wenzhou in
the province of Zhejiang in south-eastern China at the end of last year. The
evidence from the official Communist-controlled press in Wenzhou is
overwhelming: a carefully planned campaign against `feudal superstition',
lasting from the end of October to December last year, was unleashed
throughout the municipality, destroying hundreds of Buddhist, Daoist and
Christian temples, shrines and churches, carried out with the explicit
approval of the municipal Communist Party and state authorities.

Several Christian house-church leaders Keston spoke to in the region in May
claimed the catalyst for the campaign was a visit by President Jiang Zemin in
early 2000. He was reportedly horrified by the sight of hundreds of Christian
churches and Buddhist shrines, many of them unregistered with the
authorities.

The brother of one Wenzhou house-church leader told Keston that the
original decree for the destruction of illegal shrines and churches had been
issued in July of last year, ordering Christians, Buddhists and Daoists to
personally demolish their `illegal' structures. Not surprisingly, they had not
obeyed. It was not until the end of the year that the municipal authorities
took massive action. Although Keston has been unable to corroborate the
report of Jiang Zemin's instigation, there seems little doubt that an anti-
religious campaign of this virulence could not have been unleashed without
at least the acquiescence of the central government.

The same house-church leader added that Wenzhou authorities held a party
conference early in 2001. Some leaders were reportedly shocked by the
strength of the international protests against the demolitions, with some
arguing the `rectification' campaign had gone too far. Orders were given to
tidy up the ruins dotting the municipality, and an olive-branch extended to
unregistered Christians that they might be permitted to rebuild their churches
- if they registered with the government and joined the state-controlled
Protestant body, the `Three Self Patriotic Movement'. There is little
likelihood of this happening. Wenzhou house-churches have reportedly split
into smaller cell groups and carried on meeting.

Wenzhou is known in Christian circles throughout the country as the
`Jerusalem of China' because of the huge increase in the number of
Protestant Christians since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976.
According to a leading local pastor in the State-supervised Christian
Council, registered Protestants number over 600,000 � or about 10% of the
population. This figure does not include large numbers in the unregistered
churches who for many years had enjoyed a degree of freedom unusual in
China.

The first report of the destruction to reach the West was on Radio Australia
on 12 December 2000 which claimed that `450 Catholic and Protestant
churches, as well as Daoist and Buddhist temples' had been shut down or
blown up in the Ouhai District of Wenzhou City. The following day the
Hong Kong based `South China Morning Post' stated that `449 Christian
churches and Taoist and Buddhist temples' had been `closed and in some
cases even blown up' in the same Ouhai District. The same day the news
broke in the United States and Britain with detailed reports in the Daily
Telegraph and Associated Press.

However, significant differences of detail began to emerge. For instance, AP
quoted a spokesman for the Wenzhou City propaganda department saying
that `as many as 450 buildings had been destroyed. Most were in the Ouhai
district of Wenzhou and in nearby Yongjia and Yueqing counties.' The
demolitions were stated to have begun `at the start of December in rural
areas around the port city of Wenzhou.' However, the Information Centre for
Human Rights and Democracy in Hong Kong was cited as claiming that `the
number of destroyed buildings [was] much higher, at 1,200'. On 18
December the Washington Post published a long, graphic account of the
demolitions, including interviews with local Christians. It stated that `even
the state-run media have reported that more than 1,500 churches, Buddhist
temples and Taoist shrines around the port city of Wenzhou have been shut
down or destroyed since the crackdown began in early November'.

Although these reports agreed on the scale of the campaign, they differed
over when the campaign began and the exact number and location of
churches, temples and shrines shut down or demolished.

Confusion may have been compounded by ignorance of the geography of the
municipality of Wenzhou, which covers several thousand square miles and
had a total population of 6.3 million in 1994. Only about 1.3 million live in
the actual city of Wenzhou. Four million people inhabit the eight mainly
rural counties of Ouhai, Yueqing, Yongjia, Pingyang, Cangnan, Wencheng,
Taishun and Dongtou (an offshore island); one million people belong to the
separate city of Ruian. All these administrative units comprise the Greater
Municipality of Wenzhou.

In fact a whole series of articles were published openly in the local
`Wenzhou Daily' (Wenzhou Ribao) throughout November 2000 which shed
considerable light on the campaign. They show that the demolition of
churches began in late October and was not confined to Ouhai County, but
reached many parts of Greater Wenzhou.

On 13 November 2000 the `Wenzhou Daily' announced a major campaign
by the authorities to eradicate illegal religious activities in an article entitled
`Earnestly Implement the Party's Religious Policy - Rectify Illegal Religious
Activities in Accordance with the Law.' It stated - significantly - that `a two-
month campaign to rectify illegal religious activities has already been
launched throughout our municipality. A few days ago our reporter visited
Yan Shengguang, Head of the Municipal Religious Affairs Bureau and Head
of the Office to Rectify Illegal religious Activities.' Yan declared that `it was
absolutely necessary for the Municipal Communist Party Committee and the
Municipal Government to decide to take special measures to bring illegal
religious activities under control'.

On the same day the `Wenzhou Daily' published a shorter article entitled
`Eradicate Superstition - Initiate Civilisation', giving details of the campaign
at grass-roots. `Yesterday was Sunday and an illegal religious structure in
Wodi village of Qiaotou Township in Yongjia County had never seen such a
busy scene. This illegal structure had already been designated by the
villagers to be changed into a village cultural and recreational activities
centre_ From the end of last month [October] this township has mobilised
the masses and has firstly changed three illegal religious structures into
recreational and cultural centres for the villages, placing TVs, table-tennis
tables and books in them. Or they have changed illegal churches and
meeting-points into village schools.'

A month later, on 18 December, the `Washington Post' painted a rather more
graphic account of the persecution in Qiaotou: `Officials in nearby Qiaotou
township had been threatening for years to tear down four illegal Protestant
churches. Residents say authorities would usually shut them down and allow
them to re-open when the political environment eased, but this year, all four
were destroyed or converted into recreation centres. The largest, the two-
storey Wangtian church built in 1982 was destroyed two weeks ago.
Residents said a crowd of 70 worshippers, many of them crying, watched
from behind a line of police officers as workers dismantled the church, tore
down its cross and defaced an inscription from the Book of Psalms on its
fa�ade because officials considered it superstitious. "They say we have
freedom of religion, but why do they do this to a church? Where's the
freedom?" asked a congregational leader who asked not to be identified
because police have tried to arrest him. He and other members of the
congregation said they refused to register their church with the government
because the Communist Party would require the names of all the members
and would monitor all church functions. Their faith, they said, is
incompatible with party control. "The Party can supervise our bodies and our
minds", said one member, "but we can't let it supervise our souls."'

On 17 November 2000 the `Wenzhou Daily' published a further article
entitled: `Yongjia tears down More than Ten Illegal Religious Structures -
the City Leadership Requires that the Work of Rectification be Done Well
By Treating Both the Root Causes and the Symptoms'. It said that Yongjia
County had already torn down ten illegal religious structures and taken over
another 25 for other uses. `The County first began this work in Mingqiao and
Zhikou Rural Districts. The illegally constructed Christian church in Zhong
Village in Mingqiao Rural District was very large and had a big
congregation. On 9 November Yongjia County tore down the Christian
church in Zhong village according to the law.' All this was instigated by the
Yongjia County authorities and their superiors in Wenzhou Municipality:
`The whole county set up a command centre for rectifying illegal religious
activities; four supervisory teams; ten teams to execute the law and ten
demolition teams_ Yesterday the Vice-Chairman of the [Wenzhou]
Municipal Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee and the Head
of the Municipal United Front Work Department, Wang Houshi, listened to
reports from Yongjia County and came to the village to investigate. He
ordered that the Yongjia County [authorities] step up their work and
continue to break through any difficulties in their work of rectification so
that religious activities were brought under the control of the local village
[Party] organisations.'

This laconic report confirms the report of the demolition of the church in
Zhong in the same Washington Post article of 18 December: `When Hu
Saiwang [a 22 year old migrant worker] arrived in the village of Zhong, the
church was gone. Only a pile of broken concrete, loose bricks and splintered
lumber remained. A few weeks ago a group of Communist Party and
government officials showed up and declared the church illegal because it
operated outside the control of China's state-run religious organisations.
They seized the congregation's organ and audio system and then, as police
stood guard, started swinging sledgehammers, stopping only after the
building was flattened. "We don't have anywhere to go now", said Hu
Shimei, 62, who helped build the church. "But we'll celebrate Christmas at
home, because we are still faithful."'

On 24 November 2000 the `Wenzhou Daily' published an article headed
`Resolutely Uphold the Rectification of Illegal Religious Activities'. In this
all the legally-registered `patriotic' religious organisations in Wenzhou
(Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist and Daoist) dutifully expressed their
approval of the campaign.

On 25 November, the same newspaper reported that more than 500 police,
firemen and other officials had torn down `five large-scale illegal religious
structures' in the Lucheng Ward of Wenzhou City itself. `Up until yesterday
in this Ward 48 illegal religious structures have been dealt with.' The article
also revealed that there were `more than 40 illegal evangelists in Lucheng
Ward and more than 140 illegal religious structures. More than 20 officials
from relevant departments had transferred cadres to form three work teams
to direct the work of rectification in three key areas. Every street committee,
rural district and township publicised the religious regulations and relevant
laws through all kinds of propaganda and slogans, and undertook legal
training of every religious organisation, as well as sealing shut every illegal
religious structure.' This showed the extent of the campaign and the efforts
to indoctrinate people at the grass-roots level.

On 28 November the `Wenzhou Daily' published yet another article on its
front page headed `Ruian Concentrates on Rectifying Illegal Religious
Activities'. The article stated that Ruian City had so far forcibly demolished
28 illegal religious structures which had been built without permission, as
well as demolishing 356 small Buddhist and Daoist village and wayside
shrines. `From the beginning of November until the end of December, this
city is undertaking a concentrated two-month campaign to rectify illegal
religious activities. At the same time, cadres from the relevant departments
have been transferred to form the rectification office and eight investigation
teams to go into each of the eight wards of Ruian City. For several days, the
city has every day mobilised several thousand cadres and members of the
masses to take part in this rectification work. On 24 November three rural
districts and townships in the Taoshan District mobilised more than 250
police and other departments to carry out a thorough rectification of more
than 60 illegal religious structures, and halls and meeting-points for feudal
superstition. They have already torn down 36 and are in process of blowing
up four larger ones. In just two days Tangxia Township has demolished 63
small Daoist and Buddhist shrines. Mayu Township in just one day has torn
down 53 illegal religious structures and small Buddhist and Daoist shrines.'
(END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.