Adding to fears that China's ruling Communist Party has Christianity in its crosshairs, Christian statues depicting Biblical scenes including Jesus' crucifixion have been destroyed, removed or hidden by authorities in Wenzhou, a city known as China's Jerusalem.
According to the Telegraph, On Saturday, around 50 government workers cordoned off Wenzhou's Longgang Hill, a park where many christians come and pray that includes assorted statues and monuments from Christianity, some depicting the Passion of Christ.
Statues of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, each weighing up to five tons, were "bricked around to hide them from public view" while cranes were used to remove other holy statues and tablets from the park. According to witnesses, some of the religious items were destroyed.
About 100 Catholics who came to watch the removals were blocked at the entrance," said one witness, who asked not to be named because of "security concerns".
"Some who managed to sneak in sang hymns and prayed while watching. Some could not hold back their tears," the anonymous witness told UCA News, a news agency covering Catholic issues in Asia.
The government claims that the the park and the statues were illegally constructed, and deny an attack on Christianity, but activist say, if the park or churches were illegially built, then they should be given the opportunity to appeal the ruling in court, but they have not been allowed to do so.
Many Christians in the Wenzhou area have reported that the stand off with authorities over the last few months has become increasingly violent, as the government seems to be trying to disrupt Christian worship.
Officials in the region also destroyed a mega church, and have slated many others for Christian churches for demolition.
A copy of an official document obtained by ucanews.com, which could not be independently verified, stated that Wenzhou authorities decided in early January to begin demolition of what they deemed to be "illegal" worship sites in the city.