Another 18 church crosses removed in Zhejiang province by state authorities last month
Towards the end of 2013 Chinese authorities started a campaign to remove or demolish crosses from churches, ostensibly because they violated regulations against illegal structures. However, human rights groups declared that removal of crosses from churches is in effect a restriction on Christianity and religious freedom. The government action led to protests in 2014 in city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province that has a large Christian population.
After more than 1,500 crosses had been removed from Catholic and Protestant churches, Zhejiang authorities slowed down their efforts last September. New provincial regulations were issued controlling the size and placement of crosses. Province authorities then began a “five entries and transformations” campaign aimed at controlling content inside churches. State officials were even sent to try to stop people from talking about the cross-removal campaign during Mass.
A prominent church leader, Rev Yuese Gu and a leading Christian lawyer Zhang Kai who assisted churches that were trying to stop their crosses being removed have both been arrested and are thought to be held in secret “black jails”.
At the beginning of this year Zhejiang province started taking down church crosses again. 18 crosses were removed so far this year, 13 of them last week. Christian officials in Zhejiang said they were not sure whether these “were just crosses that were not removed as scheduled last year or if this is a new round of persecution.”