Between 1,200 and 1,700 crosses have come crashing down over the past two years in China’s Zhejiang Province, where the brutal repression of Christians has also seen churches demolished and pastors imprisoned, all with the blessing of top party officials. The NYT reports:
“What has been happening in Zhejiang is a test,” said Fan Yafeng, an independent legal scholar in Beijing. “If the government views it as a success, it will be expanded.”
Broadening the campaign to regulate religion could backfire on Mr. Xi, with worshipers abandoning government-run churches in favor of underground congregations, which typically meet unobtrusively in office buildings or homes. It could also antagonize many of the urban, white-collar professionals who have embraced Christianity.
Having recognized Christianity as a potential threat to the CCP’s grip on power, Xi could be test-driving religious persecution in China’s Christian heartland before taking the policy nationwide. As we’ve said before, the ongoing persecution is not in China’s national interest; if anything, it may make Christians stronger.
Repression is turning a largely placid Christian population into deeply unhappy one. So far in Zhejiang Christian leaders have sermonized against the new policies and their parishioners have organized protests, sometimes going as far as clashing with security forces and blockading churches slated for demolition. Take this policy nationwide, and China’s government may be in for a massive showdown with a Christian community that outnumbers the Communist Party.