Eight Catholic religious sisters were forced to abandon their convent in northern China’s Shanxi Province due to repeated harassment and intimidation by state authorities.
The account of the repeated harassment suffered by these sisters strongly recalls the persecutions suffered by Catholics, in particular missionaries, during the installation of the Red Terror under Mao Tse-tung.
Three people - a police officer and two local officials - were given special responsibility for monitoring them. These officials declared them to be “dangerous people” and began to harass them. They were asked to remove religious symbols, including crosses and a dozen statues inside the convent.
A sister recounts that these persecutors asked the Sisters “to write down what we have been doing since kindergarten; they demanded that we disclose everything we had done over the past few months. They even wanted us to remember the license plates of the vehicles we used on our travels.”
Communist officials also installed four surveillance cameras to monitor the sisters and visitors to the convent. Thanks to the resistance of the occupants, the dining room, the kitchen and the laundry room have been excepted.
But that was not enough. So these men regularly entered the convent to inquire about activities, sometimes even at night. The government also hired thugs and ruffians to harass the sisters. “They would come into the kitchen while we were cooking to mess around or act lasciviously, inviting us to dinner with them,” said a sister.
The coup de grace was the order to remove the cross from the convent, according to bitterwinter.org, a site reporting attacks on religious freedom in China. “The cross is a symbol of salvation. Taking it away felt like cutting our flesh,” the sister said. “If we had refused to remove it, the government would have demolished the convent. "
The aforementioned site notes that abuses and persecution saw a resurgence before the renewal of the Agreement between the Vatican and China last month. For example, a church in Shenzhou City, Hebei, was closed on September 3 after refusing to join the state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA). Its cross, statues, and other symbols have been removed.
Likewise, an unregistered Catholic church in Youtong Village, Luancheng District of Shijiazhuang City, Hebei, was closed on September 3 for refusing to join the CCPA. The statues and the altar were removed, in the presence of the faithful, before the church was closed and turned into a garage.
“By forcing us into ‘legal’ churches, the government aims to eliminate our faith, to make everyone believe only in the Communist Party,” lamented one of the faithful.