The powerful propaganda department of China's Communist Party continues curb religious freedoms for Christians, demolishing churches and crosses across the country.
Last week, Chinese Christians in Wenzhou City, known as the "Jerusalem of the East", fought government attempts to forcibly remove the cross from the roof of GuanTou Church, ChinaAid reports.
However, on June 17th, local authorities returned and completely destroyed the cross and continued to constantly harasse church leaders, threatening to tear down the church building if they insisted on keeping the cross.
"Government officials tried to cause division among church leaders," local believers told International Christian Concern (ICC). "They forced them to choose between removing the cross and tearing down the entire church."
On Tuesday at 3:00 a.m., a team of around 30 people, including government officials and construction workers, arrived at GuanTou Church for the second time and cut the cross off from the roof of the church building.
"How can you separate the cross from a church?" A local pastor asked in a recent interview. "Can you choose between a national flag and embassy building? It is completely humiliating and violating the freedom of belief."
In 2014 alone, 360 church buildings have been destroyed, ChinaAid reports. According to the ICC, more than 100 churches have been demolished or targeted over the past two months, and nearly 340 crosses have been destroyed. This past Sunday, 15 churches received cross demolition notices from authorities.
In addition, the Chinese government not only removes crosses in attempts snuff out Christianity, but changes the names of many churches into senior housings or cultural centers. Before Sanjiang Christian Church, the nearby 4,000-seat mega church, was completely demolished on April 28th, the government proposed a plan, "to remove the cross on the roof and change the first floor of the church to be a public parking lot, the second floor a public library, only leaving the third floor for worship," according to ICC's local contact.
However, despite the violence, believers are "firm and courageous" in their stance and are calling upon Chinese President Xi Jinping to halt the violence.
"We received clear evidence that local and provincial authorities in Zhejiang Province continue to wage an all-out war against Christians and Christian places of worship," said ICC Regional Manager for Southeast Asia Sooyoung Kim. "We call on President Xi Jinping directly to step in and put an immediate end to what is a clear violation of China's constitutional commitment to religious freedom."
China Aid Association, a religious rights group in the U.S., believe that the destruction reveals that the Chinese government is trying to stop the rapid growth of Christianity.
"I suspect it is a well-orchestrated campaign in order to contain the rapid growth of Christianity," Bob Fu of the China Aid Association said at the time.
"The deliberate wounds will take years to heal and the remaining little trust between the Chinese government and Chinese religious communities is gone."
ICC's Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, Sooyoung Kim, said, "It is crystal clear that local and provincial authorities in Zhejiang Province have carefully planned and carried out their consistent and methodical attack against Christianity and churches. We call on the Chinese central government to clearly express its stance on this massive anti-Christian campaign. Their silence implies either tolerance or complicity in this massive attack against the religious rights of Chinese citizens.