THE Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong, the Most Revd Paul Kwong, has urged the central government of China to stop removing crosses from the outside of church buildings in Zhejiang, a province in the east of the country.
He told his diocesan weekly paper, the Echo, that he was "sad and sorry" about reported violence and political tensions caused by the removal of crosses there.
In the article, published last Sunday, Archbishop Kwong said: "If the Zhejiang authorities think there is a safety concern to have an oversized cross, it only needs to order the church to change for a smaller one."
The Archbishop is said to be drafting a letter to the state leaders urging them to settle the tensions peacefully. His concern comes after a month-long protest by a group of Christians in Zhejiang ended on Friday of last week with the removal of a cross that they were protecting.
"Now that the authorities forcefully removed the cross without obvious and immediate danger, it is damaging religious freedom and trampling on Christianity," he said.
Eight worshippers at Ya Village Church in Huzhou city were dragged away from the roof, where they had been guarding the church cross from "unfair removal", reports from Reuters suggest. Fourteen other protesters left earlier in the week because of sickness and the heat.
China officially endorses freedom of religion, although Ya Village Church is one of more than 1200 in the region to have lost their crosses to demolition teams sent in by party leaders.
President Xi is suspected of administrating a clampdown on the 4000 churches in Zhejiang. The party chief in the province, Xia Baolong, is a confidant of the President, and many believe that the area is a scapegoat for the wider repression of religion in China.
The state-run Global Times newspaper reported in July that authorities in Zhejiang had denied dismantling crosses on churches, saying that some had been "relocated" because of safety concerns.