In an unprecedented move, the communist Chinese government began constructing the two large churches designed to accommodate the increase in the number of Christians in Beijing, March 2. The government is paying an estimated 20 million yuan – $2.4 million, for the design and construction of the 3,000 and 5,000 square meter sites for the “Nestorian Church of Beijing.”
While many celebrate the move as a positive step toward religious freedom, others are concerned that the upcoming churches are merely part of a façade to hide the religious persecution that is littering the nation. China only recognizes the “three-self patriotic churches” as the legally sanctioned Christians; Officials claim to give recognition to state-registered Catholics, but the Vatican is barred from overseeing them.
Just last week, two of China’s underground church leaders were detained for “leaking information” while investigating a massive government crackdown and destruction of house churches in the Hanzhou province. Both men may be forced to serve life in prison.
“The government should certainly feel ashamed of such actions, which in no way conform with China’s claims of respecting freedom of worship,” said Liu Qing from the Human Rights in China group.
While China reportedly has 15 million Protestants and 5 million Catholics registered in official churches, it is believed that at least 30 million more worship at underground churches.