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Christian Salvation Church in Wuhan city faces illegal forced demolition

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

China Aid Association

救世堂周边被拆(Wuhan City – Sept. 25)  During 2011 and 2012 a famous historic church structure that has been listed in Wuhan, Hubei province as a protected cultural relic---Christian Salvation Church, has been threatened with illegal demolition, as Liu Gang, chief pastor and vice president of the Municipal Christian Council has colluded with a developer and government officials in pursuit of personal profit.  However, due to strenuous objections from the believers and city residents, the plan has not succeeded.  The battle over the church has lasted for more than a year and it is still being fought.  Representatives of the believers have been persecuted to overpower their opposition, and in spite.  (photo left:  Salvation Church in Wuhan is in imminent danger)

In early 2011, Liu Gang, vice-president, secretary general of Wuhan Municipal Christian Council and chief pastor of the Salvation Church, in an attempt to test the congregation’s reaction, on several occasions disclosed to the congregation that the Salvation Church would have to be demolished.  In early March, he claimed that the Salvation Church was too old and that a Christian developer motivated by compassion would demolish the church and build a new one at a different location for free.   He claimed that this was great news for the Salvation Church and that the congregation should support it.  However, the truth the believers have learned is that the Salvation Church is located in the now super-expensive location of Hanzhong Street which has very lucrative potential value for commercial development.  In fact Liu Gang himself voluntarily approached Wuhan Huatong Housing Development Company to collude with them  and conspired to “build a new church in exchange for the old,” to make room to exploit the prime location for commercial development.

Of the congregation only Liu Gang, his wife, and a few trusted followers of his supported his plan, while the great majority of the congregation and the elders have boycotted it.  In late March, he suggested that they could build the new church at the old location after the demolition and he wanted the congregation to support it.  Again, the great majority of the believers and the clergymen were against it.  Moreover, when Wuhan residents and the residents living in the vicinity of the church learned the news, they were unanimously against it.

The reasons why the church’s believers are against the demolition of the Salvation Church are: to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ; we the believers should protect it, instead of destroying it, as the house of God is a sacred structure.  As the chief pastor of the Salvation Church, Liu Gang supports the project and wants to demolish God’s hall.  His real intention is known to all, and the collusion behind the scene is shameful.  Besides, the Salvation Church is not old at all.  In the years in which it was constructed people used premium materials in building it and the quality is  high.  Now, the structure is as perfect as it was initially and people are still amazed by it.  It’s a rare structure both in China and abroad that combines both Chinese and Western styles and it is by no means too old and it does not have any potential safety problems.  And of critical importance, as a structure listed as a cultural relic, the Salvation Church structure will be far safer from destruction than a new facility would be.

The reasons why the residents living in the vicinity of the structure, and all residents who are concerned about the issue, are against demolishing the Salvation Church are: the Salvation Church is among the first group of historical structures protected as cultural relics; it has many believers and the policy does not allow it to be destroyed; there is no way one can duplicate an excellent historic structure; once demolished, it would forever lose its immeasurable historical values; and it is ruinous to demolish excellent structures to replace them with shoddy ones.  Whoever destroys the Salvation Church structure sins against history.

After he was boycotted, Liu Gang colluded with the developer and circumvented the believers of the church and applied for demolition in writing on behalf of CCC/TSPM at the Municipal Housing Administration Bureau.  There he lied saying that the demolition request was supported and approved by the majority of the believers.  Such despicable treachery by Liu Gang infuriated the believers.  Many of them called the State Administration for Religious Affairs, provincial and municipal bureaus for religious affairs and wrote open letters to petition the Municipal Housing Administration Bureau to tell them the truth.  They also demanded that the Municipal Housing Administration refuse to approve such an illegal application that betrayed the church.  In the meantime, they posted online comments and replies, calling on people to preserve the Salvation Church.

When there was no response from Wuhan Municipal Housing Administration Bureau, the believers organized a sit-in demonstration in front of the gate of the Municipal Housing Administration Bureau, bringing banners with slogans against the demolition.  The opposition from the believers of the church, the residents living in the vicinity, other people who are concerned about the church, and the netizens, increased more and more.  In regard to this, the relevant leaders of Wuhan held a discussion meeting of experts at the end of April.

Li Baiku, president of the School of Urban Planning of Wuhan University of Technology, Dong Yumei, research fellow of the Office of the Municipal Local Chronicles, and three other experts, unanimously voted against the demolition.  On May 15, 2011, in its special column on the third page of Changjiang River Daily four special articles on the subject of preserving the old church were featured.  In the meantime, Wuhan Municipal Government promised to all the people of the city that they would strengthen their efforts to preserve the Salvation Church, and would not allow people to demolish or move the church.  In its “Round Table Time” on May 22, Wuhan Radio Station broadcast a live interview program that the Salvation Church would not be demolished or moved.

Though the municipal government made its promise in the newspaper, Liu Gang still would not give up.  He threatened that the church must be demolished.  He blatantly allowed a group of people to enter the church for a survey.  On June 4, the electric wires were cut and he pretended not to know it.  On June 23, Liu Gang brought with him approximately a dozen people and dug about the foundation of the church in an attempt to destroy the church.  When this was discovered by the residents in the vicinity and the believers, they called 110 for police.  At the news about a hundred residents and believers came and they locked the door so that the people who had come to demolish the church could not escape.  However, when the police arrived they let those people escape.

Some netizens exposed online the evil deeds of Liu Gang, the Judah-type traitor, who betrayed the church.  However, the CCC/TSPM did not have any comment or response when the believers reported that Liu Gang betrayed the church.  Therefore, Liu Gang’s behavior went from bad to worse and he canceled the morning prayers at the church and did not allow the guard to open the door.  Those believers who came for morning prayers were blocked outside the iron-gate, but they insisted on praying by kneeling on the floor.  Liu Gang would not be persuaded.  Instead, he told the believers not to be so stupid as to oppose him and the CCC/TSPM.  Thus, the confrontation between the believers and Liu Gang has become increasingly open and the believers have begun to call him a traitor.  Whenever he delivers a sermon, many believers will exit en masse.  Such confrontation has brought disorder to the Salvation Church for some time.

On July 31, 2011, Mr. Tu Hanqiao, member of the Standing Committee of Chinese Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee, member of the Standing Committee of Wuhan Municipal People’s Congress, vice-chairman of Hubei Provincial Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee and chairman of Wuhan Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee, came to the Salvation Church.  Before several hundred brothers and sisters, he solemnly promised that the Salvation Church would not be demolished or moved.  Because of this, the believers were greatly relieved and wrote letters of thanks to the municipal government.  However, beginning in September, the neighborhood committee began to conspire with Liu Gang.  Hanzhong Street Office of Qiaokou District and the neighborhood committee in the jurisdiction have on many occasions sent people to occupy the podium on Sundays, and they and Liu Gang came up with a plan to move the Salvation Church as one piece.  They also sought to delude the believers into “raising their consciousness” and supporting the “integral move of the Salvation Church” and support this “major-opportunity grand great-leap-forward development strategy for Hanzhong Street.”  They have exaggerated this issue to the level of principle and ideology and have branded the Salvation Church a barrier to Hangzhong Street taking this opportunity to join “the grand great-leap-forward development strategy.”  This tactic of changing the form but not the essence, and the conspiracy of betraying the church and the faith, have not won the support of the congregation.  On many occasions, the congregation took out the May 15, 2011 Changjiang River Daily, the newspaper of the Municipal Party Committee, and drove them away.  But after they were driven away, people from the neighborhood committee persisted in their attempts to seduce the congregation by “dividing and conquering,” going to every believer’s home in Hanzhong District and trying to talk them into supporting the demolition.  As for the believers they consider to be the strongest opponents and thus the major obstacles, they approached and talked with these believers’ relatives, sons and daughters, and even their leaders at their work units.

In November, Liu Gang brought the Party secretary of Hanzhong District Neighborhood Committee with him and threatened that those believers who live in Hanzhong Street District, who get the minimum social security and who don’t support the integral move of the Salvation Church will be disqualified for the minimum social security.  This devious tactic turned out to be very effective.  After several people who were on the minimum social security were branded “disqualified,” almost none of the rest of the believers who were on the minimum social security dared to oppose the project openly.  After all, the minimum social security is their life-support.  Such outrageously inhuman conduct by pastor Liu Gang and his gang has made other believers more determined to resist.  They wrote an open letter to Liu Gang and submitted it to the Municipal Committee for Religious Affairs to once again expose the conspiracy of Liu Gang.  However, they have received no response of any sort.

During this time, the church was sabotaged on several occasions during the night.  The electric wires were cut and the pipe for incoming water was also severed.  Once, an air-conditioner was stolen.  Yet, Hanzhong Street office said it is not under their jurisdiction and the local police station said they could not find out who committed this vandalism and theft, and that there is no way they could find out.  Therefore, the believers began to take turns to guard the church and they prayed constantly.  In the meantime, public notices in opposition to the forcible demolition are posted on the church’s door, exposing the conspiracy of a handful of Liu Gang’s cohorts and their dirty work.

On February 3, 2012, without the knowledge of any believers, Changjiang River Daily, the same Party newspaper of the Municipal Party Committee under the same government carried a small article with a small space on Page 6 of the newspaper.  In the article its promise delivered on May 15, 2011 that the Salvation Church shall be protected and that they shall not allow anybody to demolish or move it, was blatantly altered.  The new article changed these words to “integral move of the Salvation Church.”  Now, the believers understand the reason why Liu Gang and the group of people from the neighborhood committee have been so aggressive, it is because their hand has been strengthened as their interest group has expanded.

Therefore, the believers sent out representatives who, through many setbacks and difficulties, finally found chairman Tu Hanqiao, who on July 31, 2011 at Salvation Church had promised on behalf of the government and the CCC/TSPM before several hundred brothers and sisters that the Salvation Church would not be demolished or moved.  The representatives asked the government why it has changed its mind, and what force has made the government betray its credit and change its mind in less than a year’s time.  They also asked him why the private plan of Liu Gang and the neighborhood committee is surprisingly the same as the reported plan of the government.  Was the promise the government made in its newspaper on May 15, 2011 merely a tactic to stave off an concerted opposition for the time being?  To this question, Tu Hanqiao replied coldly that the plan of the integral move is for the purpose of preserving the church.  He also warned the representatives that they should not oppose any decisions of the government. 

Sister Yu, the representative of this church, proposed that they write an open letter of opposition and suggested that the congregation voluntarily sign the letter and then they would submit it to the municipal government in the hope that the municipal government would pay attention to this and make a correct decision.  This suggestion was supported by the sisters and brothers.  After the open letter was written that is titled “Changing from the Promises of ‘No Demolition and No Move’ to ‘Protected Integral Move.’  Let the Residents and Congregation Know the Truth—On the Protection of the Christian Salvation Church of Wuhan located at 447 Hanzheng Street.  Opposition to Integral (partial) Demolition or the so-called “Protected Level Plane Move,” over 700 believers have voluntarily signed the letter in only two Sundays.  What makes the believers disappointed again is that the Housing Administration, Planning, Religion, Culture and other relevant agencies all refused to accept the open letter and the signature sheets for various professed reasons.  They not only refused to do so, they also sent bulldozers to dig out earth around the church, demolished the outbuildings, and further damaged the church building.  If 40 to 50 Christian brothers and sisters had not come running when they heard of the demolition and formed a human-wall hand in hand, the church would now have been only debris.

In urgency, Sister Yu sent the open letter to Kaidi website and also sent the open letter along with the signature through express mail to eight agencies, including the State Administration for Religious Affairs, Hubei Provincial Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs, State Ministry of Construction, Wuhan Municipal Housing Administration Bureau, Bureau of Letters and Calls of the provincial and municipal governments, and the Provincial Christian Three-Self Patriotic Committee, and left their names and cell phone numbers with them.  Some believers went directly to the Municipal Bureau for Letters and Calls but did not get any response.  After a few days, bulldozers again arrived at the Salvation Church.  Unable to endure this anymore, Sister Yu led over 20 brothers and sisters in staging a demonstration protest at the municipal government.  On that day, the police detained Sister Yu and accused her of organizing a mob to disturb the public security, colluding with the anti-government forces, and opposing the government on the excuse of religion and protecting the church.

ChinaAid denounces the outrageously dishonest, dishonorable conduct of Liu Gang, the chief pastor of the TSPM Salvation Church in Wuhan, Hubei, the collusion by the Hanzhong Neighborhood Committee, the Municipal Government, and the developer, all of whom have tried to demolish or move on a level plane the Salvation Church, and condemns the outrageous character assassination and illegal persecution of Sister Yu.  It strongly supports the just human rights defense for the church and the church building of the believers.  ChinaAid encourages them to submit their administrative review application or lawsuit in accordance with the law and resolutely stop the corrupt acts of those seeking personal profit via political power, selling out the church for personal enrichment, and undermining social harmony.  It calls on Christians in China in both TSPM churches and house churches to unite, pray urgently, boycott and get rid of “Red Judahs” and the traitors in the church, to cleanse the teams of pastors of pariahs, and to be faithful to the church of Jesus Christ.

Click the following small photos to see bigger photos of the forcible demolition of the Salvation Church.
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