The CCP’s campaign to remove religious symbols from places of worship continues unabated, as believers are harassed in places of worship and at home.
by Wang Anyang
Last November, the Religious Affairs Bureau of the county-level city of Dengta, administered by the prefecture-level city of Liaoyang in Liaoning Province, prohibited the congregation of a local Catholic church from gathering and hired workers to saw off its cross. Ahead of a visit by their higher-ups, the Bureau’s officials repeatedly urged believers to empty the church as soon as possible.
The month before, the same officials ordered the person in charge of a Three-self church, which is adjacent to a school, to move the entrance further away from the school and build a wall between the two buildings. CCP propaganda posters were later displayed on it. They also forcibly removed the church’s cross and pressured the congregation to stop gathering entirely.
“There’s nothing wrong with being religious, but it was the central government that ordered to remove the cross,” a local official said helplessly to Bitter Winter. “Who dares to stop them?”
The campaign to remove crosses from all churches sweeps through other cities of Liaoning. Officials are coming up with various pretexts to enforce it, like “insufficient permits,” “upcoming inspections from higher-ups,” “crosses being higher than the national flag.”
The Bethel Three-Self Church and a Three-Self church in Xipao village, both in Dalian city’s Pulandian district, had their crosses removed in October. “Church crosses should not be more important than the national flag,” Xipao village officials warned the congregation. “The Communist Party should have absolute control over everything.”
“China is coming to its end, and its citizens don’t have any rights,” a local believer commented.
In September, the government of Heilongjiang convened a training session on the “sinicization” of Christianity for the province’s clergy members. It was stressed that all churches must recognize the Party’s leadership, actively promote the core socialist values, and “consciously integrate with traditional Chinese culture.”
“’Sinicization’ is making China’s Christianity abnormal because it is ruled by the Communist Party,” a Christian from Heilongjiang told Bitter Winter.
The cross-removal campaign is spreading throughout the province, but believers are determined to persevere. In July, after the Jiamusi city government removed the cross from a local Three-Self church, an elderly congregation member said that regardless of the government’s persecution, people will continue believing in God.
In October, a house church in Heilongjiang’s Shuangyashan city had its cross and signboard “Christian Church” removed. Later the same month, officials erased all remaining signs indicating that it ever was a church and made it look like a regular private house.
Churches all over Jilin Province suffered crackdowns, resulting in the removal of crosses. We have received reports from Changchun, Siping, Baishan, and other cities. Government officials in Tongliao and Hulunbuir cities went from home to home and ordered residents to remove everything with crosses, even stitched ornaments. They threatened to strip believers off government subsistence allowances if the orders were not implemented.
“Do you believe in the Communist Party or your cross?” a believer from Tongliao recalled how government officials were threatening her while removing religious symbols in her house. “Can the cross give you money?”
A believer in her 70s from Inner Mongolia’s Chifeng city was told by local officials to burn her cross and renounce her faith, or her subsistence allowance would be canceled. The elderly believer had no choice but to hide the cross.
“If you believe in God in this country, the CCP can fabricate a crime and convict you,” a believer from Chifeng said. “Its ultimate goal is to prevent us from believing in God, make us renounce our belief, and accept its control. There is no religious liberty in China.”