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Zhejiang authorities propose regulations prohibiting cross displays on churches' roofs; more than 10 crosses removed

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Jingning Church member clings to the church’s
cross in an attempt to save if from demolition on
May, 6, 2015.
(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie

(Hangzhou, Zhejiang—May 7, 2015) The provincial government in China’s coastal Zhejiang released a letter on Monday, asking Zhejiang citizens to send in their written opinions on the proposed regulations for religious buildings, including a condition that church crosses are only allowed on the side of church buildings. In addition, at least 15 churches’ crosses have been removed since April 30, and more than 10 churches received cross demolition threats.

The Zhejiang Provincial Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs and the Zhejiang Provincial Department for Housing and Urban and Rural Construction released a joint request for opinions on the suggested “Zhejiang Provincial Codes for Religious Buildings,” an excerpt of which can be seen following the story.

The letter’s main request is for opinions regarding the condition that the “cross should … be completely attached to the front facade of the main religious building. The ratio of the length of the cross to the height of the building’s front facade must be less than 1:10 and the color must match the facade of the church and the ambient surroundings.” This condition would apply to both Catholic and Protestant Churches.

“This new proposal is yet another attempt by the government to legitimize its illegal, violent campaign of the destruction and removal of the cross,” China Aid founder and President Bob Fu said. “The cross is one of the fundamental symbols of the Christian church. To continue to forcefully remove the cross on the rooftop of church buildings demonstrates the Chinese government’s determination to contain the rapid growth of Christianity in China. The campaign should stop immediately, and all those Christians and church leaders who were treated violently and arrested should be released unconditionally. The responsible officials should be held accountable.”

“These stipulations are a typical case of the government interfering with religious freedom,” interpreted a China Aid correspondent. “This creates a legal foundation for the forced cross demolition campaign in Zhejiang province …, and, further, it creates an excuse for the campaign to continue. The proposed regulations state that ‘religious buildings should embody the local style and cultural features.’ … They obviously mean the so-called Chinese cultural features advocated for by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement churches, who are promoting the sinicization of Christianity.”

“[The Zhejiang government] now says that they want to return to traditional Chinese culture, and they think the cross is part of Western culture,” said Chinese House Church Alliance president, Pastor Zhang Mingxuan.

Despite the regulations’ provisional nature, China Aid received a report yesterday that the cross on Jingning Christian Church in the town of Hexi, in the city of Lishui, was removed by more than 100 officers from the Lishui Public Security Bureau, the religious affairs, urban management, and other government bureaus.

The cutting torch used to remove Huzhen Church’s cross
caused the cross to catch fire on May 5, 2015.
(Photo: China Aid)
“Some church members were hugging the cross, refusing to let the officials take it down,” one Lishui Christian said. Despite church members’ efforts, the cross was removed from the rooftop of the 23-year-old church.

A China Aid reporter contacted the Hexi Police Station to inquire about the cross removal. The police officer to whom China Aid’s reporter spoke said to call the township government regarding the reason for the persecution; calls to the township government went unanswered.

In addition to Jingning Christian Church’s cross removal, China Aid received information about 13 other cross demolitions. On April 30, authorities in the township of Wenxi, Chuntian County, Lishui, removed the crosses from 12 churches including Gantou Church, Yeshan Church, Shabu Church, Zhoutou Church, Chengao Church, Linao Church, Shamen Church of Wenxi, Zhouyang Church, Wenxi Catholic Church, etc., according to Wenxi Christians.

On Monday, Huzhen Church’s cross was removed from its church building in Jinyun County, Lishui. The cross was ignited when demolition specialists attempted to use a cutting torch to remove the cross.

More than 10 churches in the township of Fanshan, in Qingtian County, Lishui, received notices, demanding that the churches demolish their own crosses by May 10.

China Aid reported in late April and early May about four other cross removals and one other cross demolition threat.

“The main reason for these cross removals is that the persons in charge of the Lishui churches feel they shouldn't fight the government,” a Wenzhou, Zhejiang, Christian said. “They think there’s no way they can win a fight against the government. In Wenzhou, there are still three churches that were ordered to remove their crosses, but the authorities have failed to do so. These churches are Xialing Church, Yazhong Church, and Zengshan Church.”

During the province-wide demolition campaign, “Three Rectifications and One Demolition,” which began in January 2014, persecution of churches occurred primarily in Wenzhou. Persecution this year, which began in April, has transpired primarily in Lishui.

The campaign is responsible for the persecution of more than 425 churches in the form of cross removals/demolitions, church building or annex demolitions or conversions to public ownership, and/or demolition notices.

The campaign reportedly came to an end in December 2014. However, Zhejiang Christians reported that authorities held a meeting, in which it was declared the campaign would continue until 2016. Approximately 18 crosses have been destroyed in 2015 so far.

“Zhejiang Provincial Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs and the Zhejiang Provincial Department for Housing and Urban and Rural Construction ‘Zhejiang Religious Building Code’ (Request for Opinions)” announcement from Zhejiang Construction Information Port website

Bureau for ethnic and religious affairs and construction committees in various municipalities, Shaoxing Municipal Bureau for Construction Management, and all relevant entities:

To protect citizens’ religious freedom, enhance the management of religious affairs, promote the standardization and scientific advancement in the design of religious buildings and promote the healthy and orderly development of religion, the Zhejiang Provincial Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs and Zhejiang Provincial Department for Housing and Urban andRural Construction have organized the “Zhejiang Provincial Codes for Religious Buildings” proposal. At this time, the “Zhejiang Provincial Codes for Religious Buildings” proposal and a request for opinions are finished. They are now available for comments. We are requesting that all entities related to this issue and people from all lifestyles give their valuable opinions. Please send your written opinions to the Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Architectural Design and Research by May 20, 2015, for further review and revision.

Additional resources: “Zhejiang Provincial Codes for Religious Buildings” (Request for opinions) (Please download the proposal from the website of the Zhejiang Provincial Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs or the Zhejiang Construction Information Port.)

Excerpt from the proposed “Zhejiang Provincial Codes for Religious Buildings”

4.5.4 Religious symbols of Catholicism are bell towers, crosses, the crucifix of Jesus and icons of Jesus. The cross should be made according to the tradition of Catholicism, and it should generally be completely attached to the front facade of the main religious building. The ratio of the length of the cross to the height of the building’s front facade must be less than 1:10 and the color must match the facade of the church and the ambient surroundings.

4.6.4 Religious symbols of Christianity are bell towers and crosses. The cross should be made according to the Christian tradition, and it should generally be completely attached to the front facade of the main religious building. The ratio of the length of the cross to the height of the building’s front facade must be less than 1:10 and the color must match the facade of the church and the ambient surroundings.

4.1.2 Religious buildings should embody the local style and cultural features

To view the proposed “Zhejiang Provincial Codes for Religious Buildings” and it’s letter requesting opinions, available only in Chinese, click here.


China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org


"Bob Fu has dedicated his life to bringing freedom of religion to the Chinese people. His story is a testimony to the power of faith and an inspiration to people struggling to break free from oppression."
—Mrs. Laura Bush

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