TWO thousand crosses have been torn down from rooftops and churches in an area of China, as part of a government campaign to regulate what it describes as “excessive religious sites”, human-rights organisations report.
The government campaign in the coastal province of Zhejiang has been running for nearly two years, and has also led to the imprisonment and forced confession of a prominent human-rights lawyer, Zhang Kai, who mounted a legal campaign to challenge the removal of crosses. It was reported on social media on Thursday that he had been released.
Mr Zhang represented a group of Christians who were detained for suspected financial crimes last year, after they protested at the demolition of crosses. He was detained for six months, and this month was shown on state television “confessing” to violating Chinese law and his personal integrity as a lawyer. His confession has been condemned as forced, in a public letter by Christian leaders in the area.
The city of Wenzhou is known as the Chinese Jerusalem for its strong Christian presence.
The Christian charity China Aid said that 2000 crosses had now been taken down as part of the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign mounted by the government.
Release International, which supports persecuted Christians across the world, said that it was concerned that all crosses in the region could be removed by Easter.
“Our partners report growing fears that no Christian crosses could be left standing there after Easter,” the chief executive of Release, Paul Robinson, said. “And there are concerns this campaign to curtail the visible Christian presence in the province could gather momentum and spread across China.”
Release International had launched a petition calling for the President of China, Xi Jinping, to release Mr Zhang and other Christians who, it says, have been held and tortured.