Chinese police in the city of Wenzhou have removed a crossfrom a local church in their most recent crackdown on
Christianity in the Asian country, specifically in the Zhejiang
province. Media outlets report that local church members
gathered around their fallen cross, weeping and praying.
Although congregants attempted to protect their church,
hundreds of police arrived at the Longgang Huai En Church in
Wenzhou on Monday and removed the 10-foot-tall red cross
from the church's steeple. Wenzhou is considered to be "China's
Jerusalem" due to its large Christian population.
According to the Associated Press , about 200 congregants
attempted to protect the cross from being removed, but
ultimately allowed the police to take down the religious symbol
using a crane. Police officials have said the cross violated a city
ordinance regarding the height of buildings in Wenzhou. The
cross was returned to congregants, who reportedly wept and
prayed around their destroyed religious image.
This most recent police action is reportedly one of the many
attempts to subdue Christianity in China, especially in the city of
Wenzhou where the Christian population is rapidly growing. Last week, congregants of the local ShuiTou Salvation Church, also located in Wenzhou, said they'd rather die than have their cross removed. The congregants have held a month-long vigil at the church, forming a human blockade when police approach and attempt to remove the cross.
One church member told International Christian Concern (ICC)
that he and other congregants "will continue to guard our church
cross to the end."
"We divide people into two groups and take turns to guard the
church through the night."
Local officials have reportedly told ICC that they are competing
to see who can remove the most church crosses in the region in
an attempt to boost their own political careers.
According to the Associated Press, authorities in the Zhejiang
province, where Wenzhou is located, have successfully removed
or threatened to remove 130 crosses at local churches.
Congregants at another church, Wuxi Christian Church, have
also vowed to protect their cross from demolition. The cross was
once removed by government officials, but a local congregant
used his welding equipment to reattach the cross.
"I won't let them take down the cross even if it means they
would shoot me dead," one congregant, 73-year-old Fan
Liang'an, told the Associated Press. Fan built the church with his
grandfather back in the 1970's.
Despite the argument that the Chinese government is directing
targeting Christians, government officials continue to insist that
they are simply enforcing strict city ordinances regarding
building height, pointing to the numerous non-religious
structures that they have also demolished for being too tall.