Members of religious communities in China are being called on by officials to donate to coronavirus relief funds or else they cannot reopen following lockdowns over the coronavirus.
State-sponsored churches in some part of China that were forced to close due to COVID-19 lockdowns are only permitted to reopen if they hand money over to the Chinese Communist Party, a new report reveals.
According to a report by Bitter Winter, a Three-Self church director from Heze, a prefecture-level city in the eastern province of Shandong, explained that state-run churches were urged to collect money for areas affected by COVID-19.
Additionally, officials from the local Religious Affairs Bureau threatened numerous church closures if its members failed to donate.
Authorities in Zhangcun town issued donation quotas ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 RMB (between $560 and $1,400) to Three-Self churches, while Christians in Xianju were ordered to donate 100 RMB (about $14) to Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Churchgoers in Zhejiang’s Hangzhou city were also forced to donate,” according to a Three-Self church director. “Some elderly congregation members live alone and have no sources of income, but are also forced to give money.”
When Christians requested to give their money directly to victims of the pandemic instead of filtering it through the government, officials from religious affairs departments refused, Christian Post Reports.
Buddhist temples were also subjected to forced donations to the state in order to reopen. Some of its members ended up selling food as an alternative means of income since most temples live off of the donations of believers and visitors.
While the CCP has exploited places of worship amid the coronavirus pandemic, Christians are also targeted during regular times. Bitter Winter notes that last year, believers were forced to contribute to poverty alleviation or other government’s “charity” projects.
“Last year, the Religious Affairs Bureau demanded us to collect money to fix a slide on a kindergarten playground,” a deacon from a Three-Self church in Henan’s Zhumadian city told Bitter Winter. “Government departments ask us for charitable donations every year. If we refuse, our church will be closed.”
Persecution watchdog Open Doors ranks China 23rd on its list of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The nonprofit notes that all churches are perceived as a threat if they become too large, too political, or invite foreign guests.