Chinese authorities completed their task of removing yet another cross from a church today, nearly a week after a group of Christians tried to stop the government's anti-church campaign.
As The Telegraph’s Tom Phillips reports from Shanghai, on early Tuesday morning a red cross was removed from the top of Guantou church, located in Wenzhou, a city known as "China’s Jerusalem." Last Wednesday, members of the church successfully stopped a demolition crew from removing the cross, but it was removed with a crane in secret this morning, according to Zheng Legou, a local church leader who spoke with Phillips.
There are more than 67 million Christians in China, according to the Pew Research Center, but a Chinese official for religious affairs said the spread of the religion was “too excessive and too haphazard” in an address to Communist Party members.
This morning’s action has renewed fears that China is cracking down on mainstream religion as Christianity moves across the country. In April, authorities razed an entire megachurch in Wenzhou, which is known for its large Christian population, and in March 2013, the Zhejiang government launched a three-year “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign to “rectify” and destroy what they considered to be “illegal structures.” The United States' Congressional-Executive Commission on China released a statement on June 6 saying the program “contravenes international norms and Chinese regulations governing religious affairs.”
Efforts to remove crosses and Christian symbols have been increasing in recent weeks, and around 360 church buildings and crosses have been destroyed this year, according to The Telegraph. Just how much freedom of religion China has is questionable. Technically, it’s guaranteed in the constitution, but “deep in the party’s narrative is a view of Christianity as a tool of Western imperialism,” reports the BBC’s Carrie Grace.
And it’s not only Christianity that’s facing a crackdown. As The Diplomat’s Steve Finch reports, parallel to the destruction of Christian symbolism is the “much louder campaign against Islamic extremism by minority Uyghurs in the northwest.”