Massive Zhejiang Church Demolished


End-of-the-week China links:

A few days after an expert predicted China will have the world’s largest Christian population by 2030, local officials in Zhejiang province’s Yongjia County ordered the demolition of the enormous Sanjiang Church. The church, eight stories high, reportedly cost 30 million RMB ($4.79 million) to build. In September 2013, the building was deemed a model engineering project. On April 28, it was torn down after paramilitary forces dispersed the Christians who had gathered to protect the building.

According to the South China Morning Post, local government officials said that the church was in violation of building codes, and was slated for demolition in December of last year as part of a larger crackdown on illegal buildings. A Yongjia County spokesman told CNN that the church’s “building area should be within 1,881 square meters, but they built 7,928 square meter illegally.” In addition to demolishing the church, the local government also plans to punish five officials for not acting sooner to prevent construction of the building. Dai Xiaoyong, deputy governor of Yongjia, said that the church had agreed to demolish the illegal parts of the building themselves, but didn’t follow up.

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Church leaders, however, claimed that they were given only a few days’ notice of the planned demolition. They further said that the church had all the relevant government approvals, and was being targeted simply because it was a massive symbol of the country’s Christian population. The U.S.-based Christian advocacy group China Aid claimed that the Sanjiang Church became a target after Zhejiang Party Secretary spoke out against churches in the province being “too conspicuous.”

In other news, Xinhua carried a piece describing the reactions of Chinese viewers to the news that some of their favorite U.S. television programs had been scrubbed from internet viewing sites. Xinhua highlighted the irony of a sit-com like “The Big Bang Theory” being pulled while China’s state-owned CCTV network began to air “Game of Thrones,” a U.S. drama famous for its violence, nudity, and crass language. “Why was ‘Big Bang’ pulled off? It is far outweighed in nudity and erotic scenes by ‘The Game of Thrones’ while not at all as terrifying compared with ‘The Walking Dead,’” Xinhua quoted a netizen as saying.

Xinhua also included input from “supportive voices online” who feel “China’s cyber space … is glutted with rampant inappropriate content” and hope the axing of U.S. shows will “leave some space for the nurturing and growth of locally made series.” Media and netizens alike can only speculate as to the censors’ motives, as Xinhua said the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television refused to comment on the ban.

Meanwhile, the University of Nottingham-based China Policy Institute highlights André Beckershoff’s analysis of the relationship between Taiwan’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Beckershoff traces the current phase of active KMT-CCP relations back to 2004, when KMT candidate Lien Chan lost the presidential election. In the absence of formal diplomatic ties, and with no relationship between Beijing and the DPP, the KMT would become the bridge between Taiwan and the mainland — a fact symbolized by then-KMT Chairman Lien Chan’s historic visit to China in 2005. Since then, Beckershoff notes that the regular KMT-CCP Forum (often held in China, away from the media spotlight) has been a driving force in cross-strait policies and agreements.

Beckershoff believes that the KMT’s monopoly on cross-strait relations “has already severely distorted Taiwan’s democracy.” Beckershoff argues that the KMT should not be praised for improving cross-strait relations, but that it has rather harmed Taiwan by turning relations with the mainland into “a highly conditional and tenuous state of affairs that can only survive if the KMT is in power.” Critics would counter that the DPP has shown no interest in working with China, and this is the reason that the KMT has taken the leading role in cross-strait relations.

In the wake of the Sunflower Movement and on-going protests against nuclear plants in Taiwan, the current KMT administration is facing record-low approval ratings. It’s worth considering how cross-strait relations can carry on should the DPP come to power in the 2016 elections.

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