China’s ongoing war on Christianity is intensifying, as officials continue to pull down crosses and other religious iconography and Christians respond with protests. The Times has the details on the latest signs that things are heating up:
Chinese officials have pulled down a cross from a church near Shanghai, ending a sit-in by 22 protesters who had camped on the roof of the building for the past month. The action is, the Christians believe, further evidence of a systematic campaign by the Communist party to curb the religion.
The Ya Village church, in the city of Huzhou, Zhejiang province, is one of more than 1,200 in the region to have lost its cross to demolition teams sent in by party bosses. Zhang Zhaoxia, a member of the congregation, presented video footage to the Reuters news agency showing a crane removing the cross.
The campaign appears to be a reaction to the rapid spread of both Protestantism and Catholicism, and may only be the early stages of a tough nationwide crackdown:
President Xi is accused of overseeing a relentless crackdown on the 4,000 churches in Zhejiang. Xia Baolong, the party chief in the province, is a close ally of the president, and many believe that the area is being used as a testing ground for a wider clampdown on religion in China.
When WRM has talked to Chinese officials about this campaign, they have cited Pope John Paul II’s role in ending Communism in Poland and the role of church-based democracy movements in forcing the end of dictatorship in South Korea. There is a fear in Beijing that religion, especially Christianity and Islam, could undermine the stability of the Chinese regime. Moreover, and this factor shouldn’t be underestimated, there is a whole bureaucracy of Chinese officials in the business of controlling religion. Those officials want to keep their jobs, and liberalizing the country’s treatment of religion would threaten that.
And, if all that wasn’t enough, the increasing signs of an economic slowdown in China have clearly made the government nervous. Cracking down on “threats to the regime”, including human rights lawyers, academics, and religious believers, appears to be part of a wider strategy to batten down the hatches in China. How far will Xi take it?