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Chinese Church ordered to remove crosses for 'safety'

Since 2014, hundreds of crosses have been demolished by communist authorities in various provinces
The Chinese national flag flies in front of St Joseph's Church, also known as Wangfujing Catholic Church, in Beijing in 2020. Since 2014, the Communist authorities removed hundreds of crosses from churches in China under controversial policy of sinicization of religions.

The Chinese national flag flies in front of St Joseph's Church, also known as Wangfujing Catholic Church, in Beijing in 2020. Since 2014, the Communist authorities removed hundreds of crosses from churches in China under controversial policy of sinicization of religions. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Published: March 18, 2024 10:53 AM GMT
Updated: March 18, 2024 11:12 AM GMT

Local authorities of a city in Anhui province in eastern China have issued a notice ordering a Protestant Church to remove two crosses, citing potential “safety” hazards.

The Villagers’ Committee of Yongqing in Wangfenggang Town, Xiejiaji District of Huainan City, issued the notice to the Wangfenggang Christian Church, says a report from ChinaAid, a US-based group of exiled Chinese dissidents, on March 15.

The committee, which reports to the local branch of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), said the two crosses on the roof and entrance of the Church must be removed due to structural issues.

Normally, the religious department issues a notice to remove crosses from the church on the instruction of local CCP high-ups. It demolishes them if not done by the church authorities within a stipulated period, 

In case of Wangfenggang Christian Church, local authorities overlapped with the religious department in issuing the cross notice, ChinaAid said.

The committee neither explained the legal basis for the removal nor provided a safety assessment report from qualified personnel, it added.

Under Chinese law, a villagers’ committee “is the primary mass organization of self-government, in which the villagers manage their own affairs.” It is not an administrative agency and does not have administrative law enforcement qualifications.

The church authorities said if the local committee was genuinely concerned about the safety hazards, it should have asked the church to commission an assessment of the structure.

The church was constructed about forty years ago according to designs approved by the authorities and underwent testing and inspection by relevant departments, the report said. The crosses have been used without any safety issues for years.

The notice evoked memories of cross demolitions by authorities in the communist-ruled nation since 2014.

After Xi Jinping became China’s president in 2013, the CCP tightened its control of religions and religious activities in the officially atheist state.

The CCP has strongly promoted and implemented the controversial policy of sinicization of religions, a political ideology that seeks loyalty to the party and imposes strict socialist principles on all individuals and institutions.  

Xi allegedly approved the cross-removal campaign in 2015 during a meeting of the United Front Work Department, an influential body of the CCP tasked with advancing the party’s influence at home and aboard with a set of complex systems and opaque organizations.

The CCP leadership argues that the public display of Christian characters like the cross does not fit with the sinicization policy.

Besides cross removals, the sinicization campaign saw Bibles burned and plaques with Christian phrases forcibly removed and destroyed.

In Zhejiang, an eastern province with a sizable Christian population, some 1,500 churches were affected by a series of cross demolitions, reports say.

The cross-removal campaign began in Yuyao City of Zhejiang in 2014 and later spread to other provinces such as Henan, Anhui, and Jiangxi as well as Shandong and Xinjiang

In 2018, Christians in Henan province witnessed a large-scale cross demolition campaign.

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