In response to the embargo on rooftop crosses in Zhejiang province, a number of Christian organisations are voicing their displeasure with the regulations, claiming they interfere with religious freedom, reports the Wall Street Journal.
“Trial Regulations on Religious Structures” were rolled out in May, dictating that a cross should not be more than one-tenth the size of the church’s façade and must be affixed to the façade rather than tower over the building.
The Chongyi Church in Hangzhou, China’s largest Protestant mega-church (which is also linked to the official Protestant organisation in China), lashed out at the legislative standard in a statement posted on its website, arguing that it “profanes Christianity’s most basic beliefs and tramples on the law and spirit of religious freedom”.
The Wenzhou diocese of the state-approved Catholic church also issued a statement voicing its “strongest disapproval”. “Other buildings are being built taller and taller, while churches are forced to be built lower and lower,” added the statement. “One can’t help but suspect a crackdown on churches is going on.”
Reacting to the perceived religious persecution, some are defying the regulations by restoring crosses which were forcibly removed. Collective resistance has been most obvious in Lishui City (near Wenzhou), where 12 Protestant churches have re-erected crosses, some of which were larger than the original.
There have also been calls for the provincial government to explain their rationale for the new stipulations, with one anonymous Catholic petitioner crying out that there was “no legal basis for this”.
Once renowned as “China’s Jerusalem”, building regulations in Zhejiang have become a battleground in the showdown between Church and state; it is reported that authorities have forcibly removed at least 470 crosses and destroyed more than 35 churches since the end of 2013. Earlier this year, a Christian pastor was jailed for one year for protesting the demolition of a Wenzhou church.
By Liam Bourke