Pastor of China's largest megachurch fired after opposing cross removals

Chinese authorities have removed a leading pastor from his role at a large state-approved church after he opposed the removal of crosses in his area.

A crane lowers down a cross from the top of a church in Zheijang, China. On the right, a removed concrete cross is seen on the ground.(YouTube)

Joseph Gu Yuese was arrested last month on charges of embezzlement and other economic crimes but supporters say this was fabricated in retaliation for his public opposition to the removal of hundreds of rooftop crosses from churches.

On Monday the head of Zhejiang's state-sanctioned Protestant church was fired from his post, despite the fact his case was not taken to trial, The Washington Post reports.

Gu was initially taken into custody on January 28 in Zhejiang's capital of Hangzou. He had been senior pastor at the largest protestant megachurch in China, Chongyi Christian Church.

Gu's province of Zhejiang has been the victim of a targeted campaign by Chinese officials to remove the crosses and other outward symbols of Christianity from church buildings. The authorities say they violate building codes.

Although un-registered house churches have long been persecuted by Chinese authorities, the latest crackdown is notable because it includes state-approved churches that are largely compliant with China's harsh communist government.

Gu's removal comes after another Chinese pastor in the province of Zhejiang, Xing Wenxiang, was sentenced to 14 years in prison after he opposed the cross removals. He was arrested alongside his wife, who was given 12 years in jail, and 10 other members of his church.