The government in China's coastal Zhejiang Province recently ordered that surveillance equipment must be installed in churches, permitting officials to easily monitor church activities. While there are claims this is to be done as a necessary "safety" and "anti-terrorism" precaution, officials have taken into account whether or not these churches have previously resisted the cross demolitions during a province-wide campaign, stating that more agents will be sent to opposing sites where necessary. Previous reports on the demolition of church crosses are available here.
At the beginning of March, authorities in Zhejiang demanded that the province's Three-Self Churches install surveillance cameras, dispatching officials to forcibly set up the devices if the order meets with refusal. From March 21st to 24th, 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 the 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 until the cameras were set up. Officials also destroyed the church's reception desk and other parts of the building, including the church's gate.
On March 23rd, Shengai Church in Pingyang County, Wenzhou, issued a statement accusing the government of violating their privacy, disrupting the internal affairs of religious organizations, and breaking laws by installing the cameras. The church claimed the government had no legal basis for these actions, further stating that officials need to obtain permission of the church or they would otherwise be exercising an abuse of power and violating religious freedom.
Pray that the members of these churches will continue to make the most of every opportunity by faithfully attending church services, encouraging one another in the Christian faith, and corporately worshipping the Lord together so they can experience increased unity and strength. And rather than the surveillance cameras being used as a potential snare, may they effectively benefit all who are watching -- touching the hearts of the government officials and blessing them with the hope and truth of God's infallible Word. Additionally, as the pastors and church leaders deal with the governing authorities, may their speech be seasoned with wisdom and grace...that they may know how to appropriately respond to each one.