A local government directive leaked to China Aid, a Texas-based Christian group, and reviewed by The Washington Post advises local Communist Party cadres that shutting down the church is necessary to “maintain social stability”— a catchall phrase often used to justify sweeping clampdowns.
The Dec. 9 raid on the church in a relatively sleepy provincial capital is conspicuous because of the timing — about two weeks before Christmas — and because the government’s tactics were revealed.
But it also speaks to a broader pattern of religious repression that is playing out beyond China’s mountainous southwest, as the officially atheist Communist Party struggles to control the spread of religion amid a broader push to thwart dissent.
“The overall environment in the past few years has been harsh,” said Yang Fenggang, director of Purdue University’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society. “There’s a tightened control over civil society in general, including churches.”