Wenzhou looks like many Chinese cities—a mix of flashing lights and dull grey concrete and skyscrapers, streets clogged with impossibly laden motorbikes and the sleek black Audis so beloved of cadres, the lush mountains nearby blurred by smog. But one feature sets Wenzhou apart: Steeples and crosses dot the rooftops, adding charm to an otherwise wholly typical, pre-fab Chinese metropolis.
Or at least, that’s how it looked two summers ago, when I visited, reporting on Christianity in China on a grant from the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship Program. But as I write in today’s New York Post, persecution of Christians has literally changed the landscape:
Chinese police attacked the Christians gathered outside of Wenzhou Salvation Church last month, beating them with electric batons.
At least 14 and as many as 50 worshippers — some elderly — sustained wounds, including a fractured skull, broken bones and internal injuries.
Their crime? Rallying to guard their church cross, government-slated for demolition.
It was just the latest in the intensifying persecution in Zhejiang Province, one of China’s most Christian regions.
Since January, Communist officials there have toppled the crosses of at least 229 churches. The government has also torn down some churches entirely, and issued demolition notices to over 100 more.
… A Wenzhou Protestant e-mailed me: “Tolerance to Christianity is obviously reducing, and the current situation is really serious.”
Zhejiang’s leaders have attacked even state-sanctioned churches, demonstrating “a little, mini-Cultural Revolution mentality that has not been seen for several decades,” says Bob Fu of ChinaAid, a Texas-based religious-freedom group. “Obviously, the Communist Party is determined to remove any sign or social forces that are deemed as a political threat.”
Are Zhejiang officials acting at Beijing’s behest? In May, a national “blue book” report listed religion as one of four “severe challenges” to national security in China (along with the import of democratic ideals, the influence of Western culture and uncensored Web access).
A few weeks later, a secret-but-leaked government document instructed Zhejiang officials to “see clearly the political issues behind the cross,” “dare to be lion-type cadres” and “correct the phenomena that religion has grown too fast, there are too many religious sites and there are too many activities.”
Read the whole piece here.