While still in the middle of the deadly COVID-19 outbreak that struck its population earlier this year, China's communist regime waged more relentless persecution against Christian congregations throughout the country. Now comes word that 250 crosses were removed from church buildings in just one province over a period of four months.
Bitter Winter reports Anhui province authorities removed at least 250 crosses from buildings owned by the approved Three-Self churches in Lu'an, Ma'anshan, Huaibei, and other cities in the eastern part of the province during a period from January to April of this year.
"All Christian symbols are ordered to be removed as part of the government's crackdown campaign," a state employee from Ma'anshan city told Bitter Winter.
The historic Gulou Church, located in the center of Anhui's Fuyang city is a state-run Protestant church whose membership has been meeting there for the past 124 years. On April 1, ten officials from the city's Religious Affairs Bureau, Public Security Bureau, and other government departments came to the church to oversee the removal of its cross. They were reportedly blocked by more than 100 church members, who had been attempting to prevent the cross demolition for eight hours.
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After the government officials spent several hours pressuring the church's director, the cross was removed from the building early the next morning.
A member of the Gulou congregation who was not identified told Bitter Winter that local officials claimed the cross-removal campaign was being implemented in line with a national policy, which requires the elimination of all Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, and other religious symbols. The orders are being passed down from one government level to the next, and every cross in the province will be eradicated eventually, the believer added.
"We support the state and comply with its regulations," the church member continued. "We can have a dialogue with the government if it thinks that we have done something wrong, but they can't persecute us this way."
In April, the communist government forcibly removed crosses from two Protestant church buildings that have a history of over 100 years in Hefei, the capital of the province.
According to an elder from a Three-Self church in Ma'anshan' Hanshan county, the city government called two conferences earlier this year to discuss the central government's orders to remove crosses using a variety of pretexts: for being too tall, too large, too wide, or too eye-catching.
In Lu'an, a city in Anhui province with a relatively large Christians population, crosses were removed from 183 churches in the first four months of the year.
A member of one Lu'an congregation told Bitter Winter that local government officials declared at the end of last year that because of the animosity between the United States and China, the government fears that Christians, whose number is growing in China, will "unite with foreigners against the state."
"As crosses are being removed throughout the country, those who refuse to cooperate will be accused of opposing the Communist Party," the Christian added. "We are pressured to give up our faith, but we will persevere."
Watch: On April 10, workers removed the cross from a church in Lu'an-administered Shu county.