Chinese authorities have passed on a bill to pastor Jin Mingri after the government demolished his Zion Church in Beijing, one of the largest unofficial congregations in the communist country.
The church was destroyed without any notice and officials sent Jin a bill for 1.2 million yuan, which equals around $170,000, The Guardian reported.
“Before, as long as you didn’t meddle in politics, the government left you alone,” the pastor remarked. “But now, if you don’t push the communist party line, if you don’t display your love for the party, you are a target.”
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He added, “Of course we’re scared; we’re in China, but we have Jesus.”
The Chinese government’s crackdown on Zion Church started in August, when communist officials first threatened to shutter the 1,500-member church after the congregation refused to install closed-circuit surveillance cameras in the sanctuary, according to Reuters.
Church leadership had been denying CCTV requests since April.
In early September, the Beijing Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau rebuked the church for organizing events without officially registering with the government, arguing the congregation’s leaders were violating rules forbidding mass gatherings. As a result, the church was “legally banned” and its “illegal promotional material” — presumably Bibles — was confiscated.
Zion Church has for years survived under the radar, as a member of a network of unofficial “house” churches in the restrictive nation. But as calls for “sinicization” have ramped up, it has become increasingly difficult for such a congregation to exist.
So after weeks of refusing to comply with the government’s requirements, national authorities destroyed the church’s gathering space.
“Not only did they not negotiate with us before moving our things, there’s no reason in asking us to pay this exorbitant moving cost,” Jin told Agence France-Presse, noting it will be “impossible” for the church to pay all the fees they’ve incurred.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, has called out the Chinese government for its actions against Christians, arguing the communist leaders are “taking a hammer and sickle to the cross.”
“Burning Bibles, destroying churches, and jailing Muslims by the million is only part of the Chinese communist party’s audaciously repressive assault on conscience and religion,” he said. “Taking a hammer and sickle to the cross is a good way to create bipartisan consensus for a tougher U.S. stance towards China.”