Anglican archbishop says China cross removals must stop
Prelate with government ties says campaign damages religious freedom
Christian groups protest against cross removals outside the Liaison Office in Hong Kong on Aug. 2. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Justice and Peace Commission)
Archbishop Paul Kwong of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong has called on China’s central government to halt the cross-removal campaign in Zhejiang.
The archbishop told the Chinese diocesan weekly Echo that he felt “sad and sorry” over news reports about physical clashes and the burning of crosses that have accompanied the campaign. More than 1,200 crosses in Zhejiang have been removed and several churches demolished since late 2013 under a controversial “illegal structures” provision many believe is being misused to target Christians.
“Placing a cross on top of a Church is a common practice in Christianity. If the Zhejiang authorities think there is a safety concern to have an oversized cross, it only needs to order the church to change for a smaller one,” said the archbishop in the report published on Aug. 9.
“Now that the authorities forcefully removed the cross without obvious and immediate danger, it is damaging religious freedom and trampling on Christianity,” he said.
The archbishop said that he is drafting a letter to the state leaders, asking them to settle the incident peacefully and immediately.
The prelate said he had also written to Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), in June 2014 and Wang confirmed receiving his letter last October.
Wang explained to him that the “three rectification and one demolition” action was only aimed at illegal constructions and his office has been actively following the situation, said the archbishop, who is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
Kwong’s membership in the political conference, the highest advisory body for the central government, makes him a sometimes-controversial figure among the faithful in Hong Kong.
On social media, Christians called Kwong’s statements an important step forward but urged more progressive action from the Anglican Church.
“Can our Church be more proactive aside from expressing itself on written news?” asked Ng Ka-ho, a convener of a Facebook group for Hong Kong Anglicans in support of social justice.
“We should not stay silent and let outsiders misunderstand that we depend on a regime that demolishes the Church,” said Ng.
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