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China's Catholics, Protestants hit back over cross restrictions

Zhejiang draft legislation 'ridiculous' and 'discriminatory', leaders say reporters, Hong Kong reporters, Hong Kong

Updated: May 14, 2015 05:19 PM GMT
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China's Catholics, Protestants hit back over cross restrictions

A woman walks past a church in Beijing in January (AFP Photo/Wang Zhao)


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Catholic and Protestant leaders in Zhejiang have widely criticized draft legislation by authorities that aims to reduce the appearance of Church crosses across the province.

The proposed law would add legal weight to a campaign over the past 18 months that has seen authorities forcibly remove at least 470 crosses and destroy more than 35 churches, often following violent confrontations with local Christians.

Last week, authorities asked for feedback on draft rules claiming to “protect freedom of religious belief” including a ban on crosses being affixed to the tops of churches as well as restrictions on mosques, and Buddhist and Daoist temples.

“It is quite standard around the world that the cross is placed on the rooftop. How can we just fix it on the façade? It’s difficult for us to accept,” said an underground Catholic priest in Wenzhou who asked not to be named for security reasons.

“Under such circumstances, we may have to build our churches in the Chinese temple style in the future,” he added.

The 36-page directive also states that crosses must be painted in colors to blend in with church façades, and designed with a height-to-width ratio of one to 0.618 at Catholic churches and three to two on Protestant churches.

A Protestant catechist in Wenzhou told the new measures showed the Communist Party was now planning to directly interfere in the design of churches.

Other provisions state that kitchens and bathrooms must primarily use solar power or other renewable energy, a costly requirement that has not been imposed on other organizations in China.

“It is simply ridiculous,” said the catechist, who also asked not to be named. “The authorities should control the smog first before talking to the Church about environmental protection.”

Chongyi Church, the largest Protestant church in Zhejiang’s provincial capital Hangzhou, issued an angry statement calling for the government’s proposals to be scrapped.

The draft legislation “blasphemes the foundational belief of Christianity” and violates China’s constitution in respect to freedom of religious belief, it said.

“[It is] discriminatory with more unreasonable requirements on the Catholic and Protestant Churches,” the statement added.

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