Xuchang, Henan — Officials imposed a hefty fine on impoverished Christians in China’s central Henan province recently, threatening their future opportunities to hold future services.
The leaders of an unregistered village church in Xuzhou, Henan, were visited by local officials and told them that they owed the government 20,000 yuan ($3,154.20 USD) for building a church without the approval of the religious affairs bureau. They also demanded that the church dismantle its cross and raise the Chinese flag.
Since June, authorities have required government-run Three-Self Churches to display the flag and sing the national anthem at church services.
A Christian woman said the church built its location off of the funding of a few women and is very shabby. On WeChat, a popular Chinese social media platform, people said that this church’s congregation lives in poverty and cannot afford the fine. Since the authorities told the church they wouldn’t be allowed to legally meet unless they pay the fine, it might prevent them from being able to openly gather again.
Additionally, many Christians in Henan speculate that persecution will worsen after Chinese New Year. One said, “Whether they are Three-Self Churches or house churches, those who have not been legally registered and obtained a permit will be regarded as an unlawful assembly and banned after Chinese New Year. This is the exact news I just received, but it is still a little better than what is happening in Wenzhou. Wenzhou’s tactic is to demolish [churches and crosses] forcibly, while Henan’s method will be to negotiate with you and let you demolish your church.”
China’s revised edition of the Religious Affairs Regulations went into effect on Feb. 1, placing more restrictions on Christianity, and churches throughout Henan have reported experiencing consequential pressure from the government, rendering their future uncertain.
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