Remainders of the Catholic church in Qianwang, Licheng district, after it was razed to the ground.. (Photo: still from video)
On Monday a centuries-old officially registered Catholic church in Qianwang, Licheng district, was razed to the ground (Photo: AsiaNews)

More than 20 churches have been closed this year in China’s north-western city of Xining and to prevent further closures the government should quickly approve applications of churches that want to become state-approved, says Wang Ruiqin, associate secretary-general of the state-aligned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and China Christian Council (CCC).

In a letter to the head of China’s religious affairs bureau, Wang said government officials should also learn about religion so they can be better equipped to communicate with churches, reports advocacy organisation ChinaAid.

She also reportedly suggested that the religious affairs bureau should focus on encouraging churches to comply with the new regulations, which came into force in February, rather than harassing them.

The religious affairs bureau chief, Wang Zuoan, said last year that the new regulations were “urgently needed because the foreign use of religion to infiltrate [China] intensifies by the day and religious-extremist thought is spreading in some areas”.

He said the rules would help the government maintain “the Sinicisation of religion in our country … and keep to the correct path of adapting religion to a socialist society”.

Destruction of churches continues

Meanwhile churches in Jinan, the capital of China’s eastern Shandong province, continue to be demolished.

On Monday (13 August) a centuries-old officially registered Catholic church in Qianwang, Licheng district, was razed to the ground, as reported by AsiaNews.

“Around midday a hundred ‘thugs’ arrived suddenly in the church and began demolition work on the building, smashing the altar, the statues and the benches,” the news agency said.

The next day members of the church protested in front of the municipal offices, carrying banners and signs, saying: “Give me back my church; give me back my heart!”

They also demanded an explanation for the destruction of the church. In the end the priest, Wang Junbao, was assured by the authorities that they would find a new space for them to rebuild the church, even if “it will take a long time”.

Last month another church, also in Jinan, was demolished to make way for further development.

Liangwang Catholic Church was legally registered with the religious administration. So was Shilihe Church, of the same diocese, demolished earlier this year. A fourth church, Wangun Catholic Church in Jinan, is also awaiting demolition.