Within four months of Chinese provincial authorities ordering the removal of crosses “no matter what,” the government stripped 250 churches of the symbol that represents their Christian faith.
Religious liberty watchdog Bitter Winter reported that between January and April 2020, the government left approximately 250 Three-Self churches in the eastern province of Anhui without crosses. Chinese officials targeted churches that were part of the government-recognized Protestant body.
“All Christian symbols are ordered to be removed as part of the government’s crackdown campaign,” a state employee told Bitter Winter.
The Gulou Church in the center of Fuyang city is a state-run Protestant church which is been in operation for 124 years. On April 1, 10 government officials approached the church to oversee the removal of its cross.
One hundred members of the church blocked the Chinese officials, refusing to let them tear down their cross. The congregation protested for nearly eight hours. Unfortunately, the church director succumbed to the pressure and the government removed their cross at 5 a.m. the following morning.
In addition, the government also forcibly removed the crosses from two Protestant churches in the capital city of Hefei. Both churches have a history of over 100 years.
Officials from Hanshan county’s United Front Work Department removed crosses from all 33 Three-Self churches in the county.
Chinese officials did the most damage in Lu’an — an area with a large Christian population. Authorities removed crosses from 183 churches.
Church members across the Anhui province are angry with the removal of the crosses. They wish to fight back but fear the consequences will cause more harm than good. In fact, standing up to the powerful Communist Party of China is an exercise in futility.
“The fact that all church crosses in the county have been taken off makes us very sad because the cross if the primary symbol of our faith,” one church elder said. “But we don’t dare to disobey central government orders: little fish don’t eat big fish.”
Additionally, some Christians are afraid that others will “unite with foreigners against the state.”
“As crosses are being removed throughout the country, those who refuse to cooperate will be accused of opposing the Communist Party,” the Christian added. “[They] pressure us to give up our faith, but we will persevere.”
Others believe what the government is doing is completely illegal. Officials come to eradicate crosses without notice or warning.
“We support the state and comply with its regulations,” one member said. “We can have a dialogue with the government if it thinks that we have done something wrong. But they can’t persecute us this way. Officials did not show any documents, fearing that people would implicate them with anything in writing. They only conveyed verbal orders and forced us to obey them.”