Christian Church in Wuhan City, China, Faces Forced Demolition
Christian Salvation Church in Wuhan city faces illegal forced demolition
This article essentially details the collusion of a church pastor and Chinese government officials as well as real-estate developers to forcibly demolish a large Christian church against the wishes of the congregation. Government control of the “Three-Self” or official Protestant church in China means that believers who attend the churches are often subject to the decrees and wishes of local government officials, many of them who are hostile to Christianity.
09/25/2012 China (China Aid Association)- During 2011 and 2012 a famous historic church structure that has been listed in Wuhan, Hubei province as a protected cultural relic—Christian Salvation Church, has been threatened with illegal demolition, as Liu Gang, chief pastor and vice president of the Municipal Christian Council has colluded with a developer and government officials in pursuit of personal profit. However, due to strenuous objections from the believers and city residents, the plan has not succeeded. The battle over the church has lasted for more than a year and it is still being fought. Representatives of the believers have been persecuted to overpower their opposition, and in spite.
In early 2011, Liu Gang, vice-president, secretary general of Wuhan Municipal Christian Council and chief pastor of the Salvation Church, in an attempt to test the congregation’s reaction, on several occasions disclosed to the congregation that the Salvation Church would have to be demolished. In early March, he claimed that the Salvation Church was too old and that a Christian developer motivated by compassion would demolish the church and build a new one at a different location for free. He claimed that this was great news for the Salvation Church and that the congregation should support it. However, the truth the believers have learned is that the Salvation Church is located in the now super-expensive location of Hanzhong Street which has very lucrative potential value for commercial development. In fact Liu Gang himself voluntarily approached Wuhan Huatong Housing Development Company to collude with them and conspired to “build a new church in exchange for the old,” to make room to exploit the prime location for commercial development.
The reasons why the church’s believers are against the demolition of the Salvation Church are: to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ; we the believers should protect it, instead of destroying it, as the house of God is a sacred structure. As the chief pastor of the Salvation Church, Liu Gang supports the project and wants to demolish God’s hall. His real intention is known to all, and the collusion behind the scene is shameful. Besides, the Salvation Church is not old at all. In the years in which it was constructed people used premium materials in building it and the quality is high. Now, the structure is as perfect as it was initially and people are still amazed by it. It’s a rare structure both in China and abroad that combines both Chinese and Western styles and it is by no means too old and it does not have any potential safety problems. And of critical importance, as a structure listed as a cultural relic, the Salvation Church structure will be far safer from destruction than a new facility would be.
The reasons why the residents living in the vicinity of the structure, and all residents who are concerned about the issue, are against demolishing the Salvation Church are: the Salvation Church is among the first group of historical structures protected as cultural relics; it has many believers and the policy does not allow it to be destroyed; there is no way one can duplicate an excellent historic structure; once demolished, it would forever lose its immeasurable historical values; and it is ruinous to demolish excellent structures to replace them with shoddy ones. Whoever destroys the Salvation Church structure sins against history.
After he was boycotted, Liu Gang colluded with the developer and circumvented the believers of the church and applied for demolition in writing on behalf of CCC/TSPM at the Municipal Housing Administration Bureau. There he lied saying that the demolition request was supported and approved by the majority of the believers. Such despicable treachery by Liu Gang infuriated the believers. Many of them called the State Administration for Religious Affairs, provincial and municipal bureaus for religious affairs and wrote open letters to petition the Municipal Housing Administration Bureau to tell them the truth. They also demanded that the Municipal Housing Administration refuse to approve such an illegal application that betrayed the church. In the meantime, they posted online comments and replies, calling on people to preserve the Salvation Church.
When there was no response from Wuhan Municipal Housing Administration Bureau, the believers organized a sit-in demonstration in front of the gate of the Municipal Housing Administration Bureau, bringing banners with slogans against the demolition. The opposition from the believers of the church, the residents living in the vicinity, other people who are concerned about the church, and the netizens, increased more and more. In regard to this, the relevant leaders of Wuhan held a discussion meeting of experts at the end of April.
Though the municipal government made its promise in the newspaper, Liu Gang still would not give up. He threatened that the church must be demolished. He blatantly allowed a group of people to enter the church for a survey. On June 4, the electric wires were cut and he pretended not to know it. On June 23, Liu Gang brought with him approximately a dozen people and dug about the foundation of the church in an attempt to destroy the church. When this was discovered by the residents in the vicinity and the believers, they called 110 for police. At the news about a hundred residents and believers came and they locked the door so that the people who had come to demolish the church could not escape. However, when the police arrived they let those people escape.
During this time, the church was sabotaged on several occasions during the night. The electric wires were cut and the pipe for incoming water was also severed. Once, an air-conditioner was stolen. Yet, Hanzhong Street office said it is not under their jurisdiction and the local police station said they could not find out who committed this vandalism and theft, and that there is no way they could find out. Therefore, the believers began to take turns to guard the church and they prayed constantly. In the meantime, public notices in opposition to the forcible demolition are posted on the church’s door, exposing the conspiracy of a handful of Liu Gang’s cohorts and their dirty work.
On February 3, 2012, without the knowledge of any believers, Changjiang River Daily, the same Party newspaper of the Municipal Party Committee under the same government carried a small article with a small space on Page 6 of the newspaper. In the article its promise delivered on May 15, 2011 that the Salvation Church shall be protected and that they shall not allow anybody to demolish or move it, was blatantly altered. The new article changed these words to “integral move of the Salvation Church.” Now, the believers understand the reason why Liu Gang and the group of people from the neighborhood committee have been so aggressive, it is because their hand has been strengthened as their interest group has expanded.
Sister Yu, the representative of this church, proposed that they write an open letter of opposition and suggested that the congregation voluntarily sign the letter and then they would submit it to the municipal government in the hope that the municipal government would pay attention to this and make a correct decision. This suggestion was supported by the sisters and brothers. After the open letter was written that is titled “Changing from the Promises of ‘No Demolition and No Move’ to ‘Protected Integral Move.’ Let the Residents and Congregation Know the Truth—On the Protection of the Christian Salvation Church of Wuhan located at 447 Hanzheng Street. Opposition to Integral (partial) Demolition or the so-called “Protected Level Plane Move,” over 700 believers have voluntarily signed the letter in only two Sundays. What makes the believers disappointed again is that the Housing Administration, Planning, Religion, Culture and other relevant agencies all refused to accept the open letter and the signature sheets for various professed reasons. They not only refused to do so, they also sent bulldozers to dig out earth around the church, demolished the outbuildings, and further damaged the church building. If 40 to 50 Christian brothers and sisters had not come running when they heard of the demolition and formed a human-wall hand in hand, the church would now have been only debris.