|The women of Shaxi church link arms
and sing hymns together as they block
the demolition crane. (Photo: ChinaAid)
(Shangyao, Jiangxi—March 2, 2018) On Feb. 22, a demolition crew tore the cross off the top of an official church in China’s inland Jiangxi province, despite the protests of more than 20 church members attempting to block their path.
Shaxi Church is an officially registered church within the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, China’s government-run Protestant church organization. Despite their official registration, the church was ordered to remove the cross from on top of the building, but the church members refused. On Feb 22, a team was dispatched with a heavy-duty crane to forcibly demolish the cross instead.
A group of approximately 20 women who attended the church held hands and sang hymns to block the path of the heavy machinery, but a 10-person team of officials pushed past them and tore down the cross anyway. Despite confrontation, the protest remained peaceful, and there was no intense conflict between the church members and demolition crew.
After negotiating with the church members, the local religious affairs bureau ruled that the church could construct a smaller cross and place it on the wall of the building but not on top.
“The government agreed to my demand of making a smaller cross, but we can only place it on the church wall,” a church member named Zhang said. “We are not allowed to place a large cross on top of the building. Currently, the cross inside the church is still intact.”
In China, the red crosses which stand on the top of churches are often one of the only indications that the building is a house of worship.
Authorities often attempt to remove these crosses, either by saying that the structure violates building codes or other excuses. In some cases, they send demolition crews in the middle of the night, when church members are less likely to be around to defend them.
Some of the most intense cross demolitions occurred in Zhejiang province, after the provincial government launched a “beautification campaign” aimed at removing crosses throughout the area. Wenzhou, a city in Zhejiang known as “China’s Jerusalem” for its high Christian population, experienced widespread demolitions across the thousands of churches built there. It is estimated that during the three-year campaign, more than 2,000 crosses were destroyed.
ChinaAid reports on instances of religious persecution, such as the cross demolition at Shaxi Church, in order to expose religious freedom abuses and promote human rights and rule of law for Chinese citizens.