A senior prelate of the Chinese Catholic church has called for prayer and fasting in support of the Christians of Zhejiang province where more than a thousand crosses and buildings have been removed or demolished.
Cardinal John Tong, Bishop of Hong Kong, is seeking a central government investigation into the cross demolition campaign which has affected both Catholic and Protestant churches.
He urged the Chinese government to stop these "unlawful acts" and said the crosses that have been removed or destroyed had all been granted the necessary legal permits.
The anti-cross campaign began in early 2014 when Zhejiang party secretary Xia Baolong stated that the skyline of the city of Wenzhou had "too many crosses", Asia News reported. There is known to be growing concern at the highest levels of government in China at the success of churches in China, particularly evangelical churches, in winning converts.
Cardinal Tong urged Hong Kong Catholics to pray and fast to share "the sufferings of their fellow Christians in Zhejiang".
Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, bishop of Wenzhou, has proposed rosaries and fasting.
In his public appeal, headed "The Sufferings of the Cross", Cardinal Tong said: "The cross is the sign most representative of the Christian faith. As Christians, we must follow Christ. That requires us to carry the cross together with Jesus Christ.
"Over the past two years, the crosses erected at over a thousand churches, Christian or Catholic, in Zhejiang province have been dismantled by force. Those dismantled include many that have been lawfully constructed with permits. In some of these incidents, members of the clergy and congregation, during their lawful act of defending their faith, have been detained, causing a lot of tension in local parishes.
"These incidents have caused much anxiety among Christians, local and overseas, about the policies of the government in regard to freedom of religion."
He appealed for an end to all unlawful acts of dismantling crosses be stopped.