Surveillance Cameras Installed in Churches

Churches in , Zhejiang, a heavily Christian area, have been required to install surveillance cameras in- and outside their buildings. Alice Yan at The South China Morning Post reports:

An official notice circulated widely among church members at the end of last year said that all churches would have to install the cameras, Christians said.

One churchgoer said officials had installed the cameras one by one but they had yet to be set up in his place of worship.

“I don’t support the government’s decision and I hope they will not put monitoring equipment inside our church,” the churchgoer said.

“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. [Source]

Wenzhou was the epicenter of a government campaign in 2013-2015 to remove crosses from churches and in some cases to demolish the buildings themselves. Several Christians activists and lawyers were detained for protesting the action, including rights lawyer Zhang Kai, who was held for several months after offering legal aid to protesters. In a news release, U.S.-based China Aid linked the recent order to previous resistance to the cross removals and to the ongoing anti-terrorism campaign:

At the beginning of March, authorities in Zhejiang demanded that Three-Self Churches install surveillance cameras and have been dispatching officials to forcibly set up the devices if the order meets with refusal. Officially, the reasoning for the cameras are “safety” and “anti-terrorism” precautions. They also said they would take into account whether or not the church had previously resisted cross demolitions during a province-wide campaign and would send more agents to the site if it had.

From March 21-24, hundreds of police officers converged on Changlin Church in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, in order to carry out this task, beating any Christians who resisted their efforts. A local Christian said the church members questioned why they needed additional surveillance since Three-Self Churches are already heavily monitored and policed by the government. Some Christian women stationed themselves outside the church, fearing a possible church demolition, and were seized for their resistance, then released once the cameras were set up. Officials also destroyed the church’s reception desk and other parts of the building, including the church’s gate in order to get in. [Source]

The tightening restrictions in Wenzhou come amid a crackdown on religious behavior in Xinjiang, where authorities passed the first region-wide measure limiting behaviors that they view as evidence of “religious extremism,” including growing beards, wearing veils, and refusing to watch state TV broadcasts. In Sichuan, authorities are carrying out the demolition and evacuation of Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, one of the largest such institutions for Tibetan Buddhism in the world. Last April, Xi Jinping warned of foreign infiltration through religion, saying China must, “resolutely resist overseas infiltration through religious means.”