The missionaries were buried in Xiezhou town, which is administered by the Yanhu district of Yuncheng, a prefecture-level city in the northern province of Shanxi. Swedish Christian missionaries first established a presence in Yuncheng in 1888, and eventually built schools and hospitals in the area. Many people converted to Christianity as a result of the work of the Swedish missionaries, and their renovated gravesites had recently become an attraction for Christian tourists.
According to Bitter Winter, the Yanhu district government sent over 100 police personnel to the cemetery on the morning of September 12. The gravesites, and a house containing photographs of the missionaries, were bulldozed two hours later. Plants were planted on top of the gravesites.
Members belonging to the church that erected the tombstones were blacklisted, Bitter Winter reported. Those who lived near the cemetery were also taken in for questioning.
These reports of Christian persecution in China arose around the same time a high-ranking Vatican official chided a reporter for asking about Christian persecution in China.
Despite the ongoing persecution of Christians in China, which has also seen Communist authorities bulldoze churches, arrest bishops, and offer bounties for information on underground religious services, on Oct. 22 the Vatican announced that it had agreed "to extend the experimental implementation phase" of the two-year provisional agreement first signed with the Chinese government on Sept. 22, 2018,
"The Holy See considers the initial application of the agreement -- which is of great ecclesial and pastoral value -- to have been positive, thanks to good communication and cooperation between the parties on the matters agreed upon, and intends to pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people," a communique from the Vatican Secretariat of State said.
On October 21, the day before it was announced the deal had been renewed, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told journalists that while he was "happy" with the agreement, he also acknowledged "there are also many other problems that the agreement was not intended to solve."
The cardinal said that the goal of the agreement is "unity of the Church" and that through this unity "it will become an instrument of evangelization," according to a transcript provided by Italian newspaper Avvenire.
When asked about the persecution of Christians in China, Parolin responded: "But, what persecutions?"
"You have to use the words correctly. There are regulations that are imposed and which concern all religions, and certainly also concern the Catholic Church."
In China, religious education of any person under the age of 18 is illegal. This means that catechism classes have been closed and minors are not allowed to enter church buildings. Catholic churches registered with the Chinese authorities are closely monitored via CCTV cameras connected to the public security network. Priests have been forced to attend government training courses.
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The Chinese government continues to imprison Catholic clergy who refuse to support the Communist Party, according to a September report out of the province of Jiangxi.
China is also reported to have interred more than one million ethnic Uyghurs in a network of concentration camps in Xinjiang Province. Ostensibly for the purposes of combating religious "extremism," multiple reports from international bodies and human rights watchdogs have recorded instances of torture, forced labor, forced abortions and sterilizations, and anti-religious Communist indoctrination.
Human rights groups have repeatedly called the Chinese actions against the Uyghurs "genocide."