The Chinese Communist Party has intensified its crackdown on Christians in China and has shut down places of worship to prevent believers from gathering together to hold services.
Local governments have called for the demolishing or repurposing of various churches, Bitter Winter, a magazine focused on religious freedom and human rights in China, reported. These places of worship will be turned into factories, entertainment venues, or propaganda centers teaching citizens about the CCP.
The report noted that 70 churches, including those belonging to China's state-sanctioned Three-Self Church, have been shut down last year in Lianyungang and Suqian, prefecture-level cities located in Jiangsu Province.
In August last year, during a Three-Self Church directors' meeting in Bailu, a town in the Guannan county in Lianyungang city, town officials said church buildings that were vacated by church members after they merged with other congregations for worship should be rented out or sold.
Some churches had already been sold or rented out prior to the August meeting, the report said.
The Chenzhuang Church, for example, was sold for 20,000 RMB (about USD $3,000) on July 26. A member of the congregation, who refused to be named, said "we didn't have a chance to save our church."
Another unnamed church was shut down in June last year. It was eventually rented out two months later, on August 25. Another church was also sold during the same month, the report added.
"The government is eradicating churches," one director from a Three-Self church said of the CCP's move.
Aside from renting the churches out or selling them, The Chinese Communist government also repurposed some of these places of worship for its own use.
One such Three-Self church in Shuyang county, located in Suqian city, was repurposed as a memorial hall for what the CCP considers as China's revolutionary heroes, the report said.
On June 5 last year, workers hired by the government went into the building, removed its cross, and also took down a large pillar that had a sign that said "God loves the world," and replaced it with another signboard, a county resident said.
The new signboard said "Huaihai District's Military and Political Auditorium." It was placed above the church entrance for all to see.
A village official, speaking of the government's action, said "The church will now be used to teach the young generation about China's revolutionary spirit."
In the Guangxin district in Shangrao city, in China's Jiangxi province, an Old Local Church venue was shut down for "illegal" gatherings and for refusing to join the Three-Self Church.
The government turned this church into what the report calls a "Civilization Practice Station for a New Era." CCP propaganda posters were placed everywhere in the venue, a church member said. Table-tennis tables were also brought in.
Another old Local Church venue was forced by authorities to rent out and be used as a processing factory.
Other churches are also demolished to stop people from gathering together.
A Three-Self church located in Xiayi county in Henan Province was shut down last year and converted into a clothing factory. It was closed two months later. Later, government officials had it demolished so that a clinic can be built in its place.
In Siyang county, also in Suqian city, at least three Three-Self churches have been demolished as well. A village official said the government is doing this because people of faith outnumber CCP members in that place. Despite its efforts to stop people from worshipping, however, "the Party is not winning people's hearts," the official said.