China Shuts 400 Temples and Churches in Zhejiang Province

HONG KONG, NOV. 11, 2003 ( Chinese authorities have closed down more than 400 Buddhist temples and Christian churches in a renewed attempt to stamp out underground religious activity.

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Human rights groups say the crackdown had been carried out by public security officials in Zhejiang province, in eastern China, against those who do not belong to government-approved groups, such as the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said that 392 Buddhist temples and Christian churches were «closed» as part of a campaign against «key members of illegal religious groups.»

The rights group said four churches and 24 temples had been destroyed outright while 92 temples had been confiscated for use as «entertainment centers.»

The center also reported that Liu Fenggan, a Christian, who traveled to the province to look into the situation, had been detained by the police.

China maintains that it defends religious liberty, but in fact it only recognizes those churches directly controlled by the government. It broke off relations with the Vatican a half-century ago.

The Vatican estimates that China has some 8 million Catholics loyal to the Holy See, compared with 5 million Catholics in the state-backed «patriotic» Church.

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