02/20/2021 China (International Christian Concern) – Despite being a state-sanctioned Catholic church and receiving praise from the local authorities, the Sacred Heart Church in Xinjiang’s Yining is due to be demolished.
The church, constructed in 2000, received all the necessary permits and had local officials attend its dedication ceremony. In February 2018, the authorities already forcibly removed its crosses, along with four bas-reliefs that adorned the facade, the two statues of St. Peter and St. Paul on the sides of the building, and its two domes and bell towers; now it is asking the church to clear out everything on February 19.
According to Asia News, while the authorities did not disclose the reason for the demolition, most suspect that the church is being destroyed to use the land and build a commercial area in its place. In fact, the church stands along the road that leads to the airport and in the urban plans, this road will become increasingly important.
Another excuse for the demolition is that the church has been too “showy.” Under President Xi Jinping’s “Sinicization” campaign, religious venues that have foreign elements easily become targets and suffer forced removal of religious symbols or full demolition. Although Sacred Heart Church already went through a “makeover” in 2018, based on the standard of local authorities, apparently it is still too “visible.”
Local Catholics believe that the Regulations on Religious Affairs are being exploited with the intention to suffocate the life of Christians. A Catholic told AsiaNews, “This is further confirmation that the country does not respect freedom of worship and the legitimate interests of believers.”