Christians and government officials in China are fighting over orders that certain churches must install surveillance cameras to help prevent acts of terrorism, according to a recent report.
“Government officials came to the churches and put up cameras by force. Some pastors and worshippers who didn’t agree to the move were dragged away,” an anonymous Christian in the city of Wenzhou (colloquially referred to as “China’s Jerusalem”) told the South China Morning Post. “Some people needed to be treated in hospital after fighting the officials.”
Zhejiang province’s government requires churches to position the cameras at the gates, offering boxes, altars and other locations for “anti-terrorism and security purposes.”
“We Christians do good deeds and we don’t do anything to endanger the public. I don’t understand why the government wants to monitor us,” an unnamed frequenter of a church told the South China Morning Post. “The government’s pressure on us will not deter us from our beliefs and will not affect the proliferation of our religion. The tougher the persecution, the more people will be encouraged to follow the religion.”
The Christian council chairman in the city of Ningbo (also in East China’s Zhejiang Province) told the Global Times in March that surveillance systems have also been “installed at schools and hospitals,” as part of the same initiative, while purporting that “some churches … voluntarily installed a surveillance system in 2000 for protection.”
The Christian community in Wenzhou, which is estimated to be comprised of roughly one million people, has been victimized by the government before.
In what opponents called religious persecution, hundreds of Zhejiang police officers in 2014 removed, or threatened to remove, crosses at more than 130 Protestant churches.
Missionary pastor Yan Xiaojie told the South China Morning Post that the surveillance camera installation is quite reminiscent of the “cross demolitions” a few years prior.
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