China: Churches damaged and crosses removed, despite promises


Crosses are still being removed from churches in China in spite of pledges that the campaign against the nation's beleaguered Christians would cease.

At least three more crosses have been taken down in attacks on Christian buildings that have seen 400 churches in Zhejiang province alone demolished or damaged in the last year.

Officials in China are defending the attacks by arguing they are merely removing illegal structures.

In the last few days alone, crosses have been removed from churches in the cities of Ningbo, Cixi and Lishui.

"I never believed in that order [to end the campaign]," Zhang Mingxuan, the head of the Chinese House Church Alliance, told The Telegraph.

He said there was a mistaken belief that Christianity posed a threat to the regime.

Last month a Chinese pastor was sentenced to a year in prison for his involvement in a protest against the removal of a cross from a church in the same province. 

Huang Yizi, who leads Fengwo Church in Wenzhou, was arrested after police tried to remove a cross from his church's roof. There was a fracas during which a member of the congregation suffered a fractured skull. The cross was eventually removed.

Huang challenged the police over the event, urged other church leaders to replace removed crosses and criticised police violence on his blog, describing what was happening as "severe persecution".

In spite of hostility from the authorities, Christianity is flourishing in China and remains the country's fastest growing religion. However precise numbers are difficult to verify. It is thought there could be anything from 23 million to 40 million Christians in China, a tenfold increase on when the Communist party came to power in 1949.