Zhejiang government continues cross removals; Wenzhou Catholic Diocese releases statement condemning persecution

Friday, August 21, 2015

Wenzhou Christians paint crosses to
distribute throughout Zhejiang.

(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
By Rachel Ritchie and Brynne Lawrence

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Aug. 21, 2015) Officials in China’s coastal Zhejiang continue to persecute Chinese churches, causing the unification of Catholic and Protestant churches in the attempt to defend religious liberty.

Ever since the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign launched in 2014, 1,200-1,500 churches or more have been affected by government persecution in the form of cross removals, church demolitions or threats. In addition, many individuals have been detained and arrested for protecting their faith against violent violations of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to religious freedom.

In late July, a rash of intensified persecution broke out shortly after Christians throughout Zhejiang began to build and paint small wooden crosses to distribute to as many households as possible.

Government officials in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, returned to Yongqiang Christian Church on July 22 to destroy the cross they had simply removed on June 30. Church members had uncovered the cross and stood it upright on the ground in front of the church, causing the authorities return. Ironically, the church had previously been lauded as a model structure by the Wenzhou government.

On July 25, police officers in another part of Wenzhou forcibly entered the home of Christian Feng Sheng. The 10 officers confiscated the phones and iPads of both Feng and his wife and escorted Feng to the Lucheng District Police station where he was interrogated for more than 12 hours about photos and articles about cross demolitions and the new cross building campaign that he had sent to friends on WeChat, a Chinese instant messaging service.

Feng reported that police pressured him to reveal to the base of operations for the cross building operation. Feng was released at 10:30 p.m. on July 26—just 30 minutes before his detention hit the 24-hour mark.

A cross is removed from a church in Wenzhou, Zhejiang.
(Photo: China Aid)
Also on July 26, in Jinhua, Zhejiang, 13 church leaders and members, including two pastors, two bookkeepers, and two family members, were detained for fraud, a charge believed to have been fabricated. Police took the 13 into custody immediately following the conclusion of their church service at Chengqu Christian Church.

In Pingyang County, in the city of Wenzhou, approximately 200 public security bureau officers raided Qianbo Christian Church and removed the cross at 3 a.m. on July 27. More than 70 church member later reinstalled a cross they had made in preparation for a possible forced demolition.

Also in Pingyang County, on July 28, government employees violently attacked church members who were guarding Taihu Church. Several Christians were wounded and one was hospitalized.

Also on July 28, Pingyang County police forced Pastor Zhang Chongzhu to accompany them to the police station as he was on his way home from a funeral.

Wenzhou Christians build small, wooden
crosses to distribute throughout Zhejiang.
(Photo: China Aid)
In Cangnan County, Wenzhou, more than 40 police officers and six K-9 units were dispatched to Tianen Church. The church’s pastor, Chen Zhiai, and eight other local pastors were interrogated at the Pingyang County Public Security Bureau.

Because of the increase in persecution, the bishops and priests of Wenzhou Catholic Diocese issued a public statement, below, requesting all Chinese people and Christians speak out and defend their constitutional right to religious freedom.

China Aid founder and president, Bob Fu, also commented on the increasing persecution. “This is the first time in China’s modern church history that a coalition between the Catholics and Protestants, between the officially-sanctioned church and the independent house church, is united against religious oppression and human rights abuses,” Fu said. “We pray for a peaceful transformation toward justice and love in China. The top political leaders should be held responsible for any bloodshed and violence.”

The Communist Party has warned its members not to participate in any of the protests and commanded that they turn in anyone who does.

In order to spread the news about the persecution they experienced, two churches have provided media spokespeople who are available for interview. The names and phone numbers of these individuals are as follows:

Yongqiang Christian Church:

1. Tao Chongyin +86-135-8766-6117
2. Wang Chunyue +86-130-1781-3127

Tengqiao Church:

1. Wei Wenhai +86-135-0577-0561
2. Huang Xiaoyuan +86-188-1500-2116

Wenzhou Catholic Diocese’s Appeal Letter to Citizens throughout China

Starting last year, the Zhejiang provincial government used the “Three Rectification and One Demolition” campaign to evolve from specific management to an increasing abuse of power. Today, the Zhejiang provincial government is openly and shamelessly removing the cross of every church. Churches in the whole pastoral district have been reasonable and courteous. We kept enduring the circumstances, praying urgently, communicating reasonably, observing calmly, and hoping that the “smog” would clear by itself. However, the persecution did not stop but became more severe. The government removed the symbol of peace and love—the cross—as if they were facing an enemy. They publicly and openly removed one holy cross after another. They ruled over everyone and used their “regulations for Zhejiang Provincial religious building,” which wasn’t approved by the people nor the law. In addition, the peaceful appeal of church leaders and the support from church members were treated as illegal actions.

This is truly like the sayings in China: “The magistrates were allowed to burn down houses, while the common people were forbidden even to light lamps” and “It’s more important prevent the free flow of people’s thoughts than to prevent the overflowing rivers.” Is it true that a government that proclaims to serve the people wholeheartedly will deteriorate into a “government that only advances in preventing people’s feelings and thoughts” described by Mr. Liang Qichao? The more they persecute the voice of righteousness, the more it shows the severity of society, the weak heart of the government, and the government’s disability in handling problems. The government’s removal of crosses is not a solution to its sickness. It will only put China, which just entered a stage of peaceful development, into new disaster after it went through the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution disasters.

God has given every human being the right to religious freedom. We defend the cross because we want to defend this basic right. We must unite together to defend and fight with reason.

As Chinese citizens, we hope that China will develop in democracy and rule of law. China should reveal, resist, and use the law to treat any actions that are illegally forceful, such as forcibly removing structures, neglecting the Constitution, willfully and carelessly disrespecting the law, violating administrative process, , and abusing political power to disturb and destroy rule of law.

Throughout history, every child of the nation of China has been hoping for a peaceful environment governed by the law. China must not fall back into the time when the “the country rises, people suffer; the country falls, people suffer.” China must not allow any backsliding elements that destroy peaceful development.

Every Christian in China has been carrying the responsibility to glorify God and benefit people throughout the years. Christians also hope to practice Chinese Christianity in an equal and relaxing religious, cultural, and Chinese environment. Is it everyone’s understanding of Chinese religion that removing church crosses is normal like what Zhejiang province has done?

At this crucial moment, comparable to the Chinese saying, “The wind sweeping through the tower heralds a rising storm in the mountains,” we should take up the responsibility to revive the nation and believe that we are the support and blessing to the nation even though we can only shed tears to witness one tragedy after another to take place. However, we must be wise and vigilant and find all kinds ways to re-erect the church crosses. If one church cross is removed, thousands of church crosses will be erected. They will be erected in people’s heart, on the streets, and in our households. The church has been gracefully growing under persecution. We ask again for the grace of God to give us the courage and power to be a martyr to stabilize the nation and promote nationality as an offering to God.

The Bible says: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24). For religious freedom, the dignity of the law, the stable development of the nation, the continuing blessing of the nation of China, and many believers in the whole nation, my billions of compatriots, let’s not be silent but call out together!

Wenzhou Catholic Diocese
July 28, 2015

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