ICC Note: Despite the fact that the "Three-Self" church is technically the only legal Protestant denomination in China and is largely controlled by the Communist Party, disputes between the church and the government remain. In this case members and pastors from several churches have banded together to protest the occupation of large pieces of land by the government that church leaders claim belong to the church. That the protest is even taking place is a small indication of the increasing desire for greater religious freedoms and rights, even among three-self churches. What remains to be seen is how the government, typically strongly opposed to any type of public protests, will respond.
7/01/2013 China (ChinaAid) - On the morning of June 13, 2013, Kaifeng Christian Church called together 700 pastors and coworkers represented from six different churches. They convened on the north side of the Kaifeng Yellow River Water Conservancy Technical Institute near the construction site of Fuxing Avenue. There, they organized a protest to stop the local authorities’ occupation of their land. According to Kaifeng Christian Church, a state-owned forestry farm has occupied their 200,000 square meters land since forty some years ago. A state-operated Technical Institute has been occupying a portion of this land for 10 years, and still, a portion of their land has been sliced off for municipal road construction use. Kaifeng Church’s demonstration is intended to draw the government’s attention to the crimes committed by the local authorities and call for the return of the occupied land.
A Chronicle of the Occupied Land
1927 – 1933: The Chinese Episcopal Church purchased 205,792 square meters of land in the western suburbs of Gumen Village of Kaifeng City.
The protest was in the intense heat of the sun
Spring of 1950: The purchased land was used by the local garrison command for land reclamation purpose.
December 1950: In accordance with the “Regulations on Religious Affairs”, which states that Christian and Catholic organizations must register with the government, the government of Kaifeng City registered the real estate properties purchased by the foreign church as Kaifeng Christian Church’s properties.
1963: The registered property was entirely occupied and put to use by the then newly established state-owned forestry farm.
1979: Kaifeng set up a stock seed farm.
1982: Approved by the vice mayor, 450 acres of the church’s land was given to the stock seed farm.
In August 1995, the municipal forestry farm applied for the “Certificate of Forest and Woodland Tenure Right” of a 297,428 squares meters land, which allows them to legally possess and use the land they took from the church and the two portions of land situated respectively at Nanguan and Sunlitang villages, which were originally purchased by the municipal livestock farm.
2003: Despite the controversy about the land, the forestry farm sold 26,758.5 square meters of land to the Kaifeng Yellow River Water Conservancy Technical Institute.
2004: The local Three-Self Christian Council called for the return of the 205,792 square meters of land. In order to properly resolve this dispute about the inherited land, the council members made trips to Beijing to seek policy advice from the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the State Council Legislative Affairs Office, and the Ministry of Land and Resources. On May 2004, the office of land and resources in Kaifeng submitted to the local government the (2004) No. 48 proposal concerning the resolution of the land ownership dispute between the local Three-Self Christian Council and the city forestry farm.
May 28, 2005: The Kaifeng municipal government issued the (2005) No. 35 resolution decision.