Authorities in Wenzhou, known as China’s Jerusalem, have given Christian churches a deadline to remove prominent crosses within weeks, worshippers and an activist group said Thursday, stepping up a long-running campaign.
The move came after Wenzhou authorities last year demolished the large Sanjiang Church, following government claims it was an illegal structure.
Three parishes under Wenzhou’s jurisdiction told AFP that local officials had renewed demands for churches to remove the remaining crosses themselves, threatening to take them down if they did not comply.
A member of the Yongqiang Parish told AFP: “Talk has been spreading that in the past two days, more than 10 crosses have been torn down in Wenzhou.”
Officials had ordered crosses on eight churches to be removed by September 20, he added.
A pastor in Pingyang said that “almost all” of the county’s 135 churches had been told to remove crosses.
“Until now, the crosses of small churches in rural areas have been removed. But it will come to the big churches in the end,” he added.
The campaign is not restricted to Wenzhou, but with an estimated number of Christians of more than a million, it presents a prominent target.
Bob Fu, president of US-based religious rights group the China Aid Association, said the pace has “definitely increased”.
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