Authorities removed the cross of a government-controlled Protestant church in Yichuan County, Henan Province, only after a third attempt: two teams of crane operators refused to dismantle it.
In the early morning of April 10, a crane appeared at the church, and its operator informed the church’s administrator, Liu Zhengwei, that he came to remove the cross. The administrator protested the removal, and the operator drove the crane off. Members of the congregation, having learned about this, rushed to the church. A local official saw the crane leaving and called in five special police officers and ordered three other cranes to come to the church. The crane operators, fearing bad luck, refused to participate in the demolition of the cross. The official increased the fee from 2,000 RMB to 6,000 RMB, but the operators, seeing the distraught believers, refused again and left.
Eyewitnesses later reported that a government employee at the scene told the believers that the Central Committee had sent cadres to monitor the removal of the cross and it would be removed no matter what, calling in the fifth crane and additional 20 special police officers carrying shields and electric batons. The area was rapidly cordoned off, forcing the believers out of the way and allowing the crane operator to get closer to the church.
According to one believer, the church accountant, Li Lei (pseudonym), noticed two plainclothes officers going to the church roof and she quickly ran up to the roof to hold on to the cross and physically block its removal, crying, “We put the cross up with our hard-earned money; you can’t take it down!” She firmly clung to the cross, but a worker carried a gas cutter to the roof and began cutting down the cross, completely disregarding Li Lei’s safety.
The crowd of believers around the church knelled down and started to pray through their tears. It was a heartbreaking sight, so other people on the scene appealed to the government employees to stop the removal, but despite the pleas and believers’ tears, the cross was removed.
An insider revealed that before the removal, authorities had called on Liu Zhengwei several times asking to cooperate in the matter, but he refused. “First, the government required us to cover the plaque ‘Immanuel,’ and now it wants us to tear down the cross; how far does it want to push us?” asked Liu Zhengwei.
Reported by Jiang Tao