Chinese province wants to ban crosses

2015-05-07 21:17
A Lutheran Church of Norway in Strommen near Oslo. (File, AFP)

A Lutheran Church of Norway in Strommen near Oslo. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Beijing - A Chinese province where authorities have forcibly removed hundreds of rooftop crosses from Protestant and Catholic churches has proposed a ban on any further placement of the religious symbol atop sanctuaries.

The draft, if approved, would give authorities in the eastern province of Zhejiang solid legal grounds to remove rooftop crosses.

Since early 2014, Zhejiang officials have toppled crosses from more than 400 churches, sometimes resulting in violent clashes with congregation members. They have said the crosses violate building codes, but critics say the rapid growth of Christian groups has made the ruling Communist Party nervous.

"The authorities have attached great importance to this religious symbol," said Zheng Leguo, a pastor from the province who now lives in the United States.

"This means no more prominent manifestation of Christianity in the public sphere."

A draft of rules on religious structures released by government agencies this week says the crosses should be wholly affixed to a building facade and be no more than one-tenth of the facade's height. The symbol also must fit with the facade and the surroundings, the proposal says. The draft does not provide the rationale for the proposal.

Fang Shenglan, an engineer at Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Architectural Design and Research who was involved with the research for the draft rules, confirmed that rooftop crosses would not be allowed under the proposed rules, but declined to explain why over the phone and did not immediately respond to a written request.

Zhu Libin, president of a semi-official Christian association in Wenzhou, in southeastern Zhejiang, declined to comment. Calls to the provincial Christian association were unanswered on Thursday.

Christianity has been expanding rapidly in China since the 1980s, when Beijing loosened its controls on religion.

Estimates for the number of Christians in China range from the conservative official figure of 23m to as many as 100m by independent scholars, raising the possibility that Christians may rival in size the 85m members of the ruling Communist Party.

The religion's tight-knit parishes, proclivity for civil society, and loyalty to God have made the ruling party edgy about its own rule.

Last August, Beijing authorities called Christian pastors and religious scholars into meetings to deliver an edict that the Christian faith must be free of foreign influence and "adapt to China," a euphemism for obeying the Communist Party.

The Zhejiang city of Wenzhou is known as China's Jerusalem because it has half of the province's 4 000 churches. Rooftop crosses used to dominate the city's skylines, and local churches - often funded by well-off businesspeople - raced to build the largest church and the tallest cross as an ostensible display of their blessings.

In April 2014, authorities forcibly demolished the Sanjiang Church, a highly visible structure then under construction on a hill just off a major highway in Wenzhou.

Most recently, a Wenzhou court sentenced Christian pastor Huang Yizi to one year in prison after he publicly questioned the removal of rooftop crosses.

Compared to the Communist Party's previous militant-style campaigns aiming at wiping out the religion, the latest crackdown is milder and its primary target is a symbol rather than the belief itself, Zheng said.

Still, he called it "a restriction on the public space for Christianity".

The campaign comes amid Beijing's increasing restrictions on civil liberty, Zheng said, as authorities have stepped up persecution of advocates for civil society and rights lawyers, and placed more restrictions on non-governmental groups.

Although the crackdown on rooftop crosses has been limited to one province, Beijing has acquiesced to it, Zheng said.

Read more on:    china  |  religion

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
6 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.