China is set to continue removing crosses from church rooftops in the eastern province of Zhejiang, despite a bishop’s claim in March that the so-called “demolition campaign” against hundreds of churches had ended.
Bishop Paul Meng Qinglu told UCA News the alleged campaign had been stopped after complaints from church leaders across China.
But Associated Press reports now that a proposed ban on any further placement of crosses would give authorities legal grounds to remove more rooftop crosses.
Thomas Müller, an analyst for Open Doors International, which monitors religious persecution, told World Watch Monitor “it is still not clear why this campaign continues and why the central authorities seemingly have no interest to stop it”.
Crosses have been removed from more than 400 churches in the province since early 2014, reports AP, sometimes resulting in violent clashes with congregation members.
“[The authorities] say the crosses violate building codes, but critics say the rapid growth of Christian groups have made the ruling Communist Party nervous,” reports AP.
China Aid’s latest annual report claimed religious persecution in China more than doubled in 2014.
UPDATE: On 16 May, China Aid reported that authorities have begun ordering churches to remove their crosses, but that churches are “peacefully resisting”.