Christian missionaries have never had an easy time in China. Since the first Christians arrived around 635 AD, they have been occasionally tolerated and mostly persecuted by various emperors who feared their effect on the general population. So perhaps the destruction of a Christian church in Wenzhou is not just a Communist government crackdown on freedom of worship. Sanjiang church was a government approved project, a state sponsored Protestant place of worship under the so-called “Three Self Patriotic Movement.” It seems, however, after a tour by Zhejiang Party Secretary Xia Baolong, who declared the temples “too conspicuous”, a campaign to demolish them is underway. The method, as a spokesman for the proganda department of the relevant county stated, is of course to accuse them of code violations. And what better way to assure that they comply with building standards regarding size and height than to bring out the bulldozers?

Why should we care as long as China keeps producing cheap manufactured goods for the rest of the world? Beyond the fact that there are estimated to be over 60 million Christians in the country — this should not be about numbers but the fact they could easily populate a country in Europe shows the dimension of the repression — this is clearly about freedom. The freedom to worship is at the heart of American society, in the absurd case that anyone needed reminding, and what is happening in China is symptomatic of the controls the communist government in Beijing uses to keep itself firmly in charge of the population. When America opened up it’s economy to the Chinese several decades ago it did so in the hope that it would lead to greater freedom in the Asian giant, as well as providing, (let’s be honest), the opportunity for enormous profits for American firms. Not everyone has profited in their dealings with the Chinese regime but a lot of wealth has been created, some of it even in the West. Let us hope, and pray, that a signal of clear support for the beleaguered Christian community in Wenzhou comes not just from Christians but from the government as well. Would that put some short term profits at risk? Likely, but over the longer term, freedom of worship is the only way forward for China – morally and economically by the way. Let’s help them understand that.