Chinese authorities destroyed another cross from a church on Tuesday as part of a renewed government crackdown on Christianity, despite a group of Chinese Christians’ attempt to prevent the removal of the cross.
Members of the Guantou church, located in the city of Wenzhou, successfully thwarted the efforts of demolition teams to remove the church’s cross last week. But it was a temporary victory, and the cross was secretly removed early Tuesday morning, local church leader Zheng Legou told the Telegraph.
Officials promised the church members that if they tried to stop the demolition teams a second time, the entire church would be torn down. “The worshippers were threatened that if they resisted, their church would be demolished just like Sanjiang,” Legou said, referring to another church in the city that had been demolished in April.
Wenzhou is known as “China’s Jerusalem” because of its many churches, and according to the New York Times it had enjoyed relaxed ties between church and state. But increasing efforts in recent weeks to remove crosses and other Christian symbols have restored fears of the government’s crackdown on religion, specifically the increasingly popular Christianity.
According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2010 there were over 67 million Christians in China, or 5 percent of the country’s population. Though China officially recognizes Christianity, there is an apparent growing concern by authorities over the religion’s rapid growth. In an address to Communist Party members, a Chinese official for religious affairs called the spread of religion “too excessive and too haphazard.”
Since March, at least a dozen other churches in the Zhejiang Province (in which Wenzhou is located) have been ordered to remove their crosses. Bob Fu, pastor and founder of the Christian Aid Association, told Voice of America that over 83 churches either had to remove their crosses or were completely destroyed in the past few months.
Carrie Gracie from BBC explained how “deep in the party’s narrative is a view of Christianity as a tool of Western imperialism, and even recently a government directive warned university campuses to be on their guard against the use of religion to infiltrate, Westernise and divide China.”