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China Moves Against 2 Churches in Campaign Against Christianity

ICC Note:

The anti-church campaign in China have been carried out in Zhejiang Province for over three months since April this year. Zhejiang Provincial government ignores its citizens’ cry for justice and determines to forcibly remove church cross or church building without going through legal process. ICC has obtained the video  in which the police beat Christians with iron batons who were guarding their church on the 32nd overnight vigil, severely injuring at least four. This article reports the removal of two church crosses during the ongoing anti-church campaign.

07/28/2014 China (New York Times) — In another sign of the authorities’ efforts to contain one of China’s fastest-growing religions, a government demolition campaign against public symbols of the Christian faith has toppled crosses at two more churches in the coastal province of Zhejiang, according to residents there.

On Monday, public security officials in the city of Wenzhou used a crane and blowtorch to cut loose the red, 10-foot crucifix that had adorned the Longgang Township Gratitude Church, witnesses said. Unlike in previous confrontations between the police and parishioners that have unfolded in recent months, the congregants did not offer resistance.

“We didn’t want to get in a fight with them, but obviously what they did was illegal,” said the Rev. Qu Linuo, a pastor from a nearby church, who was among the crowd of believers who held an overnight vigil before the police arrived.

On Friday, congregants at the Wenling Church in the city of Taizhou faced off with as many as 4,000 police officers but ultimately failed to prevent the removal of two crosses from atop their building. One congregant said as many as 40 people were detained during the standoff.

Since early spring, the authorities in Zhejiang Province have issued demolition notices to more than 100 churches, saying their structures violated zoning regulations. Most of the targeted churches are state-approved, in contrast to so-called underground congregations that are frequently targeted by the authorities.

Officials have been largely taking aim at church steeples and their crosses, but in April the authorities tore down the Sanjiang Church, a highly visible landmark in Wenzhou, saying the entire structure violated building codes. The church, which stood along a highway, had been previously cited by the local government as a model project.

Church leaders and analysts say the battle in Zhejiang, one of China’s wealthiest provinces, highlights the Chinese leadership’s discomfort with the growing allure of Christianity, whose adherents are said to rival in number the 86 million members of the Communist Party.

The crackdown on Christianity in Zhejiang also coincides with a nationwide campaign that has been directed at legal rights defenders, pro-democracy advocates and liberal online commentators.

Although the government has cited zoning rules in its fight against the churches, a provincial policy paper suggests that there may be other reasons, advising officials to use the zoning language in an effort to avoid international scrutiny.

“This is crucial to investigate and prosecute from the perspective of laws and regulations to avoid inviting heavy criticism,” according to the Working Document Concerning the Realization of Handling of Illegal Religious Buildings, which began circulating last summer.

Local officials could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Elsewhere in Zhejiang, one of China’s oldest Catholic churches, a 19th-century structure built by French missionaries in the coastal city of Ningbo, was gutted early Monday by a fire that reportedly began at the altar, according to the state news media. There were no immediate indications that the fire had been deliberately set, but news of the conflagration was likely to heighten the belief among Christians that they are under siege.

Across Zhejiang, scores of congregations have organized round-the-clock lookout teams to watch for arriving demolition crews. At Salvation Church in Wenzhou, more than 100 parishioners have been standing sentinel since July 21, when a pitched battle between the police and congregants left more than 50 parishioners injured, some seriously. Although the director of the church, facing intense government pressure, said he would allow the cross to be removed, congregants have vowed to resist.

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