Zhejiang province has proposed a ban on religious symbols atop sanctuaries at both Protestant and Catholic churches, reports TimesUnion.
If the ban is approved, authorities will be able to remove all rooftop crosses. In fact, since 2014, Zhejiang officials have already taken down crosses from more than 400 churches, which has often led to violent clashes with congregation members. Zhejiang was formerly known as China’s Jerusalem due to the large number of rooftop crosses which dotted the city’s skyline.
Zheng Leguo, a Zhejiang pastor, is concerned that the removal of religious symbols will result in a troubling lack of ‘prominent manifestation of Christianity in the public sphere’; expressing fears amid the CPP’s increasing pressure and restrictions on non-governmental religious groups.
Remains of a Catholic church in Zhejiang
While officials have justified the move by declaring that the crosses violate building codes, others suspect that the ban is politically motivated as Beijing seeks to counter the influence of Christian groups. Some believe that the rapidly growing number of Chinese Christians, estimated to be between 23 million and 100 million, is viewed as a threat by the ruling Communist Party, of whom there are 85 million members.
It came as no surprise when a recent survey found China to be the least religious place in the world, especially in the wake of similar anti-Christian incidents. A Zhejiang pastor was jailed for protesting the demolition of a church in March, while a Shanghai Bishop confined under house arrest to undergo ‘repentance and reflection’ after he resigned from China’s Patriotic Catholic Association in 2012.
[Image Via TimesUnion]
By Sharon Choi