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    » 06/23/2014, 00.00

    CHINA

    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."

    Wenzhou (AsiaNews/Agencies) - 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.

    "I 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.

    Leaders from 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.

    About 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".

    "The 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."

    "We 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.

    Church 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.

    "That's 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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    See also

    20/06/2014 CHINA
    More Zhejiang churches to be torn down in demolition campaign, christian "ready to fight to the end"
    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.

    12/05/2016 11:36:00 CHINA
    Protestant pastor who protested cross demolitions is released

    The authorities released Zhang Chongzhu, the official church pastor in Pyongyang in Zhejiang. He sent word outside China about the government's new campaign and invited them to "stand in a circle and watch" as the crosses are demolished in the Chinese province.



    28/07/2015 CHINA
    Christians respond to demolitions in Zhejiang with a ‘Make and carry the cross" campaign
    In a joint online campaign, Catholics and Protestants call on the faithful to make crosses at home and carry them everywhere. This is a "peaceful and non-violent" response to the authorities’ campaign against the religious symbol. For Catholic priest, "Tomorrow you will see crosses everywhere in Zhejiang."

    24/03/2016 09:17:00 CHINA
    Zhang Kai, lawyer who defends China’s crosses from demolition, is released

    After appearing on television to "confess his crimes" and spending six months under "house arrest", the lawyer was released. Together with activists for civil liberties, he defended the Christian churches against Zhejiang province authorities.



    11/08/2015 CHINA
    “Cry Out! Be Silent No More!” say Wenzhou priests
    The priests in the south-eastern diocese call on those who want justice to take part in a peaceful and legal rally to stop the demolition campaign currently underway in Zhejiang. Officials responsible for the latter have been doing it “with a vengeance” and "must be brought to justice." The priests are ready for anything, even death, to do what is right. “When one cross is removed, one million crosses will be erected.”



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