China Now Targets Catholics

by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  March 1, 2016   

Catholic church becomes latest victim in China’s cross-removal campaign

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ZHEJIANG, China ( - Chinese Catholics in the Zhejiang province witnessed their first church to have its cross removed in the government's two-year anti-Christian campaign.

According to, the Catholic church of Zhuangyuan in Yongqiang parish, located in the Wenzhou diocese, had its cross removed by officials last week just before dawn.

The small underground Catholic community, tipped off about the impending plans by the government to target their church, called an emergency meeting the night before the removal, but to no avail.

As reported in December, Chinese authorities have been removing crosses from Christian churches since 2013.

According to a previous report by, 2014 saw a 40-year peak in religious persecution, with 500 Christian churches damaged or destroyed in the province of Zhejiang. By Christmas of last year, the number had exploded to 1,500, with the government using various building code violations as the pretext to carry out its destruction.

But now the total number of crosses removed exceeds 1,700, with at least 18 Protestant church crosses removed in Zhejiang since the Chinese new year, February 22.

But the removal of the cross from Zhuangyuan Catholic Church marks the first time authorities have targeted the much smaller Catholic community, with an estimated 210,000 people.

Buddhists, Taoists and Muslims have also experienced harassment from China's atheist authorities, but not on the level experienced by Christians. Directives levied at non-Christian groups by officials have focused on such things as forbidding certain religious clothing to be worn in public.

Parishioners are worried that Bajia Catholic Church, also in Yongqiang parish, is next on the government's list following reports the local government ordered electricity and water to be cut off to the building on February 24.

In attempts to quell rising discontent of the millions of Christians living in Zhejiang province, officials have said they would halt future cross removals in Hangzhou itself until after the upcoming G20 summit meetings there.

One priest in Hangzhou, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "But I am not certain authorities will really stop removing crosses as policy often changes."

To learn more about Christian persecution, watch's exclusive interview with Bp. Athanasius Schneider.


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