Chinese Christians launch 'make and carry a cross' campaign to protest crackdown

A cross on an underground Catholic church is silhouetted in Tianjin, China, on Nov. 10, 2013. Church leaders have pledged to 'make the cross flourish throughout China' amid a government crackdown.Reuters

Christians in a province of China have launched an ecumenical "make and carry a cross" campaign in response to a state-sponsored crackdown on churches whose crosses, statues and other structures are repeatedly being taken down by the authorities, reports said.

The campaign organisers have called on all Christians, including Catholics and Protestants, to make crosses in their homes and carry them everywhere in Zhejiang province as a sign of protest against the crackdown on churches by local authorities, who claimed that they were just upholding building regulations, AsiaNews wrote.

Catholic bishop Msgr. Vincent Zhu Weifang of Wenzhou has been leading 26 priests from his diocese in protesting against the removal of crosses in churches.

Protestants are also up in arms against the crackdown on churches by the Chinese authorities, calling it a "little more than a bad joke."

The Christian protest movement has spread to the Internet, with a Christian in Wenzhou posting a picture of the faithful preparing wooden crosses on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo.

A Catholic priest who teaches at Sichuan Catholic seminary has urged churches in other parts of the country to "join the relay" in the "safe and legal non-violent disobedience movement," saying that "tomorrow you will see crosses everywhere in Zhejiang."

The province is considered by authorities as the site of an economic development plan for 2020. Since 2013, the  authorities in the province have been carrying out a "beautification" policy involving the removal of allegedly illegal structures.

The policy is called "Three Rectifications and One Demolition," indicating the percentage of buildings the authorities are targeting for destruction and the land they want to recover in preparation for large-scale building development.

All communities and private structures have been affected by the policy, although the Christian community appears to be its main target, Christian leaders said.

The first orders were issued after Zhejiang party secretary Xia Baolong said during an inspection that a church in Baiquan was too visible and an "eyesore." He then ordered the authorities to "rectify" the crosses that filled the skyline.

The communist authorities have been demolishing crosses, statues and at times entire church structures since then.