Authorities in China’s Hebei province demolished an underground Catholic church after its leader refused to join an association authorized by the Chinese Communist Party, according to a report.
The underground Catholic church had been gathering under a tent structure in Youtong village of Luancheng District in the city of Shijiazhuang when it was demolished while the church’s leader, Dong Baolu, who suffers from hemiplegia, was at a hospital for a check-up last month, Radio Free Asia reported.
China’s communist regime ordered Dong and members of the church to align with the Catholic Patriotic Association, which they refused to do.
Open Doors USA, which monitors the persecution of Christians in over 60 countries, estimates that China has more than 97 million Christians, many of whom worship in unregistered or so-called illegal underground churches.
The five state-sanctioned religious groups in China are the Buddhist Association of China, the Chinese Taoist Association, the Islamic Association of China, the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
However, even the organizations within the five authorized religions are subject to surveillance and limitations, Bitter Winter previously reported.
In 2018, the Chinese government banned the sale of Bibles at online bookstores across the country to comply with a “white paper” that dictated compliance with the “core values of socialism.”
ABC News Australia reported at the time that copies of the Gospels had been removed from online retailers following the release of a regime document titled, “China’s Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief.”
The white paper declared that Chinese faith communities “should adhere to the direction of localizing the religion, practice the core values of socialism, develop and expand the fine Chinese tradition and actively explore the religious thought which accords with China’s national circumstances.”
As Beijing hosted the Winter Olympics earlier this year, many expressed outrage about China’s treatment of religious minority communities. While China was accused of genocide for its detainment of Uyghur and other ethnic Muslims in western China, human rights activists had voiced concern for years about the Chinese government’s longtime crackdown on unregistered churches and house church movements.