A Catholic-run kindergarten in Henan province has been closed by authorities, according to Hong Kong-based Catholic news outlet UCA News.

The Tian-ai Kindergarten, which was run by Zhifang Church in Anyang, was sealed by police stamps posted on the school’s gates dated February 14 and March 14, according to an unnamed source speaking to UCAN.

The source, who is from the government-sanctioned church, said officials from the local police, fire services, and education bureau inspected the school, but authorities said it did not meet standards in many aspects.

File photo: Greg Baker/AFP.

“Nearby kindergartens which are run much more badly were not seized — only the one run by the church,” the source said.

The government arranged for the 60 to 70 children affected by the closure to attend nearby kindergartens.

The source claimed it was a political campaign aimed at preventing the church from undertaking activities related to education, including running kindergartens.

“We can only fully obey the government and pray. We have no other choice,” the source said.

Context for kindergarten story is the impending Vatican deal. Adding the below and saving for tomorrow:

This weekend, a historic agreement between the Holy See and Beijing is set to be signed whereby the Vatican will finally recognise Chinese government-approved bishops. Opponents, such as Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen, say the agreement is akin to a deal with the devil.

Little progress

Patrick Poon, China researcher for Amnesty International, told HKFP the case may be an example of local authorities enforcing China’s revised regulations for religious affairs.

“The government is stepping up measures to stop minors to receive any religious education, even not in the curriculum, as it’s stated in the recently revised Regulations on Religious Affairs. This case might be an example of how the local authorities enforce the regulations.”

Chongyi Church in Hangzhou. Photo: Grace, via Flickr.

“This example shows us that we shouldn’t naively believe as some people irresponsibly claim that the situation of the Catholic Church has improved in recent years.”

UCAN previously reported that minors had been banned from entering places of worship in several regions since the regulations were enforced at the beginning of February.

China’s government keeps tight controls on religious activities and only allows officially-sanctioned groups to operate.

But officials say the Chinese people are fully entitled to religious belief.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.