» 06/23/2014, 00.00
Wenzhou, police threaten Christians who want to protect churches and crosses
Scheduled for today a silent demonstration outside the offices of the Government of Pingyang County: leaders of all 135 Christian churches of Pingyang (all members of the officially sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement) had confirmed their presence at the event. The authorities have "warned" of the problems that may arise. A Christian leader: "We will take the cross down from the top of our church when the Communist Party takes down its party flag."
- A plan by Christians in Zhejiang province to hold a protest today over a
government campaign to remove crosses from their churches is likely to be
called off, a church leader said last night. Police had called several pastors
and warned them against joining a silent protest outside Pingyang county's
government offices in Wenzhou , the pastor said.
received a call from a senior officer from Pingyang county police station to
ask whether I was the main organiser of tomorrow's silent protest, which they
said would put everyone in trouble because it's illegal," the pastor said
last night talking with the South China Morning Post. The police calls had led
other church leaders to also withdraw from the protest, the pastor said.
135 churches in Pingyang county, which are all members of the officially
sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches and the
China Christian Council, had originally agreed to join the protest. Wenzhou has
one of the highest concentrations of Christians on the mainland.
360 crosses and one church have been torn down in Zhejiang since January in the "Three Rectifications
and One Demolition" campaign, said China Aid, a US-based religious rights
group. Opponents say the campaign amounts to religious persecution, while local
government officials argue the initiative only targets "all illegal
buildings, not just churches".
cross is sacred and inviolable for all Christians. It's definitely a
humiliation for us to take down crosses from our churches," another pastor
in Pingyang said. "We are very angry, but the local authorities threatened
us not to send anyone to petition Beijing or talk to overseas media. "We
decided on a silent protest because we have no other way to go."
have repeatedly sent representatives to try to negotiate with the authorities,
asking them which rules our churches have violated and we will try our best to
correct it, but all of our requests have fallen on deaf ears," a third
pastor from the county said.
leaders have vowed to continue their campaign to protect the crosses. A source
close to the county government said officials had been told that a provincial
leader would visit Pingyang on an inspection tour on June 28 to assess progress
in removing crosses that breach regulations.
why the county government and police are so anxious to watch us closely,"
another church leader in the county said. "We
have pledged to protect our cross. We will take it down from the top of
our church when the Communist Party takes down its party flag."
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A Pingyang county pastor said worshippers from at least three of the county's churches had vowed to fight the demolition to the end. In the province, about 360 churches or buildings with crosses affixed on them have been forcibly torn down in the "Three Rectifications and One Demolition" campaign since January.
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