Communist authorities are continuing their spree of removing crosses in China's Anhui province as Catholic and Protestant leaders remain helpless to resist the attack on religious freedom.
Since mid-April, officials have removed or destroyed more than 500 crosses from Christian churches and public places in Anhui in a campaign that some Christians believe is a move to wipe out the Christian symbol from the public gaze.
Paul Lee, a Protestant preacher in Anhui’s Suizhou city, said all church crosses in the city have been removed except for one at a century-old heritage church.
“Without this church, the cross sign would not have been able to survive in this town,” Lee said.
Lee said most crosses have been removed in a 500-kilometer stretch from Zhejiang to Anhui.
Neither the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association nor the bishops’ conference are resisting cross removals. “The clergy in Anhui don't want to cause trouble. They are afraid of the government,” Lee said.
Reverend Lam, a house church pastor, said house churches have been suppressed by authorities and have no fixed place of worship.
“The Chinese Communist Party is bullying the Church because it is too weak,” he said.
The cross demolition did not affect Pastor Lam but it would be difficult to find a place of worship in the future, he said.
A church in a tourist area of Anhui has been negotiating with authorities to save its cross for more than a fortnight.
“Many tourists visit this area. If the cross is torn down, it loses the symbol of our church and the sign of Christianity,” said Father Joseph, a local Catholic priest.
Father Joseph has urged parishioners to protect the cross and has informed Bishop Liu Xinhong of Anhui about the move to dismantle the cross.
"The bishop said that when the cross was torn down, take pictures to keep the evidence. The bishop expressed his inability to face the authorities. After all, it has always been under the control of the government and Bishop Liu has no say in it,” Father Joseph said.
Another priest belonging to the underground church in Anhui said that all the crosses in their churches had been removed without exception. The underground church is loyal to the Vatican and does not accept the state-sanctioned church.
He said in the past they were able to build churches and hold church activities despite the suppression. “Now crosses are demolished and church activities are restricted,” the priest said.
The drive to remove crosses began in October 2018 and thousands of crosses in Zhejiang, Henan, Hebei and Guizhou provinces have bee removed, allegedly for violating planning laws.
“After the crosses were torn down in Zhejiang, the Chinese Communist Party is spreading its game to other parts of the country. They can do whatever they want,” said Liu Xiaoman, a Christian in Hefei.