In the first half of 2020, over 900 crosses were removed from state-run churches across China amid Xi Jinping’s ongoing crackdown on places of worship, according to the Italian-based magazine Bitter Winter.
According to the religious liberty magazine, crosses were removed from over 250 state-run Three-Self churches in the eastern province of Anhui, which has the second-largest Christian population in China, in the first four months of the year. Additionally, 656 state-run Protestant churches in the province saw their crosses removed during the first half of this year.
A Three-Self church in the city’s Yingdong district, which lost its cross in April, was told by authorities that the cross-demolition campaign was part of national policy.
“If a church refuses to remove its cross, congregation members may lose their social benefits, like pensions and poverty-alleviation subsidies, and possibilities for their children’s future employment will be affected,” a church member explained.
United Front Work Department officials who removed the cross from a church in Hanshan county informed church congregants that any crosses taller than government buildings “must be demolished because they overshadow state institutions,” a church member told Bitter Winter.
“Only churches that look like enterprises are considered legal. To ‘sinicize’ Christianity, Xi Jinping does not allow churches to have Western crosses.”
The believer also revealed that government officials warned an elder in the church that “protesting cross demolitions means protesting against the government.”
“I feel sad thinking that all crosses in our church have been demolished,” the believer added. “Even though it is a symbol of our faith, who dares to disobey the central government order?” Christian Post Reported.
Persecution watchdog Open Doors USA ranks China as the 23rd worst country in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians. The organization notes that all churches are perceived as a threat if they become too large, too political, or invite foreign guests.