East Chinese country shuts churches

BEIJING – A county government in eastern China has displayed unusual vigour in a campaign to suppress religious groups, closing hundreds of churches and temples, a Hong Kong-based rights centre reported on Saturday.

A total of 10 churches and 392 temples have been shut down, and in some caes demolished, over the past two months in Deqing county, Zhejiang province, the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement.

Repeating a practice once common in revolutionary China, 92 temples have been turned into cultural venues of various kinds, according to the information center.

The campaign to “Rectify Illegal Religious Movements” has gone on since September under the leadership of the county chief and his deputy, the center said.

Every village in the county has formed small task forces of Communist Party cadres charged with spying on underground religious activities, it reported.

Similar campaigns have been launched in other parts of Zhejiang, including the provincial capital of Hangzhou, where at least 10 churches have been torn down in the period from July to October, the centre said.

It is little more than a week ago that Premier Wen Jiabao told journalists in Beijing that Chinese enjoy religious freedom.

Wen made that remark in response to a question about a recent incident in which police in northeast China raided a religious retreat and arrested about a dozen Roman Catholic clergymen.

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