Chinese crackdown on crosses and churches continues

(Photo: REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon)A cross on an underground Catholic church is silhouetted in Tianjin November 10, 2013.

A Chinese government crackdown on crosses continues with two Christian churches in Zhejiang an eastern coastal province having the symbols removed to curb the popularity of the religion in the country.

Police in Wenzhou, a city in Zhejiang, brought down the cross from Salvation Church on Thursday, witnesses said.

Parishioners guarded the building for over a week after authorities failed to remove the cross in July, according to a report by the New York Times.

Zhang Zhengchuang, the church's director, managed to reach an agreement with the local government, which cordoned off the area and took the building's keys.

Parishioners who kept watch at the church went away thinking the matter had been settled.

But as in previous instances, security personnel numbering around 200 surrounded the church as it took down the cross.

This contrasted from a previous confrontation in July which left about 50 people hurt.

"We're not able to go into the church because they have the keys," according to a witness, a parishioner. "So we just gathered outside, sang hymns and prayed."

The witness, who declined to be identified out of fear of being targeted by the government, said some 200 parishioners massed up at the church and stood helpless as authorities tore down its cross.

Government workers who took down the cross used an electric saw to cut it from its base and brought it down using a crane, according to witnesses who saw the operation.

Officials who monitored the operation was supposed to bring the cross away, but agreed to leave it when the parishioners stopped them.

The cross was later laid down inside the church.

Earlier this week, police in Hangzhou brought down the cross from the Gulou Church, according to a parishioner there.

The Zhejiang provincial government has been campaigning against structures that purportedly violate building and zoning laws.

But a government memo stated that Christian buildings and symbols are being targeted in a campaign.

In April, authorities in Wenzhou demolished the Sanjiang Church, ignoring protests from Christians there.

In June, Salvation Church and a number of Protestant churches there received notices to take down their crosses.

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