Wenzhou clergy say China deliberately targeting Christians
ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
July 29, 2015
Bishop Zhu Weifang of Wenzhou and his clergy are appealing to Catholics to speak out against the government’s cross-removal campaign.
A July 27 letter was circulated by the diocese to all Catholics through social media. The letter said that the government campaign, originally designed to correct “illegal structures,” was now deliberately targeting Christians in the free exercise of their faith.
The letter marked the second action taken by clergy in Wenzhou diocese, who protested in front of government offices in Zhejiang province’s Wenzhou city on July 24.
Sources said authorities were using the illegal structures argument as a “fig leaf” to remove crosses from churches. So far, more than 1,200 crosses in Zhejiang have been removed and several churches demolished since late 2013.
Clergy in the diocese are encouraging people to speak out as the campaign intensifies, sources told ucanews.com.
“Even our peaceful demonstration with laypeople’s support was regarded as an unlawful action,” the letter said.
After the July 24 protest, a few priests and lay leaders were summoned by security officers to explain the action. Some were asked to write a repentance letter in the police station.
The clergy said in their appeal letter that they are concerned that China, “which had gone through the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and entered into a stable development period, will now fall into a new disaster.”
They called upon “Chinese Catholics and people with a sense of justice not to remain silent but to shout out together” to fight for religious freedom, dignity and justice.
A Wenzhou Catholic, identified as Thomas, told ucanews.com that the appeal “enhanced the confidence of the faithful” in the struggle for faith. He hoped “it could arouse the concern of the Church across China and that the central government could stop the cross-removal campaign, so that it would not spread across China.”
Ucanews.com reported July 7 that there were signs the cross-removal campaign had spread to Hangzhou and Taizhou dioceses.
Thomas said the opposition to the campaign was a good sign for the Church as it “demonstrated a solidarity among clergy that was never seen before.”
Bishops from other provinces also were protesting the cross-removal campaign.
Bishop Yang Xiangtai of Handan in Hebei province criticized the campaign for infringing on the freedom of religious belief. He asked all Catholics in his diocese to pray and fast for the Church in Zhejiang.
In Fujian province, Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu of Mindong, an illicit bishop not recognized by the Vatican, also criticized the campaign in his personal blog.
The bishop told ucanews.com that the campaign has exceeded the scope of the law by specifically targeting the crosses instead of illegal structures.
“The government should not remove the cross without reason,” he said.