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.
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.
In February, Three-Self churches were told by officials in Zhangcun town to make donations ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 RMB (between $ 560 and $1,400). In the county of Xianju, members of Three-Self churches were ordered to donate 100 RMB (about $14) to Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Churchgoers in Zhejiang’s Hangzhou city were also forced to donate,” a Three-Self church director from the city said. “Some elderly congregation members live alone and have no sources of income, but are also forced to give money.”
It was reported by China’s official media that the Two Chinese Christian Councils of Shanghai Municipality donated $420,000 towards COVID-19 affected areas.
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.
Outside of the pandemic, Christians are regularly exploited by the Chinese Communist Party to donate to government “charity” projects as well as to poverty alleviation.
A deacon from a Three-Self church in Henan’s Zhumadian city told Bitter Winter that “last year, the Religious Affairs Bureau demanded us to collect money to fix a slide on a kindergarten playground. Government departments ask us for charitable donations every year. If we refuse, our church will be closed.”
According to a 2015 China Religion Survey by the Renmin University of China, clergy members from China’s five official religions — Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism — earn about $70 as a monthly salary, while 41 percent lack elderly insurance.
Photo courtesy: Chuttersnap/Unsplash
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.