China has passed a new ruling that allows the installation of surveillance cameras in churches, for “anti-terrorism and security purposes.”
In Zhejiang province, home of one of the highest Christian populations in China, officials have already begun installing CCTV cameras in churches, presumably to keep the religious members in check. Zhejiang’s Wenzhou city alone almost has a million Christians. There is an estimated 60 million Christians in the entire country.
According to the South China Morning Post, the controversial policy and its implementation have been met with criticisms among members of the local Christian community.
A Christian claimed that pastors and worshipers who “didn’t agree to the move were dragged away.”
“Government officials came to the churches and put up cameras by force,” a witness from Wenzhou city was quoted as saying.
Christian activist organization China Aid stated that enforcing officers even wrecked parts of the building’s entrance just to get inside.
“A number of churches were destroyed in Wenzhou during the forced installation of surveillance cameras. Ironic that they were installing it for security reasons!” a Weibo user claimed, according to Mashable.
In Ningbo, where the ruling is also being implemented, religious authorities stated that the policy is not meant to “single out churches”, but actually covers all public places, including schools and hospitals.
“The requirement covers all public places in Ningbo, and does not single out churches,” Ningbo’s ethnic and religious affairs deputy director Jin Ke told the Global Times.
It is worth pointing out that the initiative to place video surveillance in China’s public areas was first approved by lawmakers back in 2015. It was not explained by the officials, however, why the ruling was enforced two years later.
Zhejiang’s Christian community has faced similar intrusion from the government back in 2014. Then, local authorities ordered for the crosses on top of the church buildings to be removed, branding them as “illegal structures.” About 360 crosses were removed and one church even got demolished during the enforcement of the order, sparking outrage in the international community.