01/27/2015, 00.00
CHINA

Zhejiang, Hong Kong journalist arrested for investigating cross demolition

The woman, Jiang Yannan, was released after a long interrogation: she had been followed and those she interviewed harassed. The authorities have knocked down over 400 Christian crosses in a government campaign of "rectification". Chinese journalists increasingly targeted: still no news of Zhang Miao and Xin Jian.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Authorities in the Chinese province of Zhejiang have arrested, questioned and then released a Hong Kong journalist, who was in the area for a report on the campaign of demolition of churches and crosses ordered by the local government. The officers stopped Jiang Yannan - who works for Asiaweek - in Pingyang County, not far from Wenzhou. The city was known as the "Jerusalem of China" for the high concentration of Christian inhabitants, and today is the center of the demolition campaign.

The campaign against crosses and Christian buildings began last year, when Zhejiang party secretary Xia Baolong said that one could see too "too many crosses" in Wenzhou City's skyline. Local Catholics believe that the real reason behind the campaign is a desire to reduce the impact and influence of Christian communities, both official and underground, on Chinese society because their numbers are rising exponentially through conversions.

Speaking to Radio Free Asia, the journalist says: "I was here to do some reporting and interviews on the demolition of crosses [on Christian churches] ... They didn't hold me for very long. They just stopped me from interviewing people". After her release, the police continued to follow her and questioned the people who came into contact with her: "I did not pay them much attention, but those I tried to speak were annoyed by these agents."

The campaign against crosses and Christian buildings began last year, when Zhejiang party secretary Xia Baolong said that one could see too "too many crosses" in Wenzhou City's skyline. Local Catholics believe that the real reason behind the campaign is a desire to reduce the impact and influence of Christian communities, both official and underground, on Chinese society because their numbers are rising exponentially through conversions.

Another reason behind the campaign is that provincial authorities last year launched a major development plan for 2020. Under the guise of "beautifying" the province, they are tearing down buildings they have deemed illegal. The campaign is called 'Three Rectifications and One Demolition", indicating the percentage of buildings that should be torn down to free up land for further real estate development. In view of this, the provincial government claims that it ordered the demolition of buildings belonging to all communities and various individuals without any discrimination. However, the campaign has singled out mainly Christian sites, even those built with all necessary permits and already approved by the government.

Jiang's arrest, however brief, follows a series of detentions of journalists and members of the press that has been taking place throughout China. Zhang Miao, working with the Beijing office of the German Zeit News, was arrested while attending a recitation of poems in the Chinese capital in favor of the Occupy Central movement, which seeks truedemocracy for the people of Hong Kong. The reporter is still in jail.

Last May, the reporter Xin Jian - collaborator of the Japanese newspaper Keizai Shimbun - was detained while gathering news on the 25th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen. According to national law, Chinese nationals cannot work as journalists for foreign media here so they are employed as "assistants" or "translators". There is still no news on Xin's whereabouts or wellbeing.

 

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