China: Authority closed Six churches down in a week

Six unregistered Protestant churches have been shut down in Guiyang, a city in south west China this week. 

All churches are from the same district but it is believed similar closures are occurring in other districts in the city, which is in Guizhou Province. 

The churches were accused of being 'illegal religious venues'. China has a two-church system; ones associated with the state-sanctioned body and ones that are not. Sometimes a church doesn't register with the state to maintain independence and teach what they want.

However, these unregistered churches are then more vulnerable to potential closure or fines. 

Kiri Kankhwende from Christian Solidarity Worldwide told Premier what practically happens when a church is closed down:

"Very often they'll get a written notice, it can happen at very short notice - it can happen the night before or even on the day. And the churches shut down, in some cases we've heard of it being demolished, and that's it.

"You cannot go back, you cannot worship there and you cannot meet in an alternative location either."

300 people in total were affected in this case, having to find somewhere else to go to church. 

"It's not just the unregistered churches, they're taking issue with all churches at the moment" Kiri said, "but the unregistered churches in particular they see as a problem because, as a communist government, they want as much control over the population as possible and so they see that the church that's out of their remit as a bit of a threat. They fear that they could be plotting something".

Registered churches have been closed as well though, resulting in fewer places overall to worship. Some resort to meeting in open air or meeting privately in people's homes but it's particularly hard for large congregations which end up being scattered. 

Some congregations have lost up to 40% of their members. 

The closures follow the introduction of a revised Regulations on Religious Affairs law, which has led to restrictions.

State-sanctioned churches have been forced to ‘sinicise’ and demonstrate their loyalty to the Communist Party by singing pro-Communist songs during church services, removing crosses, and displaying the national flag.

Such cases have been reported in Henan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Liaoning, and Hebei Provinces. Catholic and Protestant clergy who oppose such measures are removed from their positions and sometimes detained or fined.

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