The Chinese communist government continued its campaign against Christianity during the country's coronavirus outbreak by destroying crosses and demolishing a church while people were on lockdown.
On March 13, a church in Guoyang County, Anhui Province saw its cross removed by authorities. A video shared by the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness documented the moment when the crane removed the red cross from the church's rooftop.
A Christian with the surname Chen told persecution watchdog group China Aid that this church usually has 40 churchgoers attending its services. Authorities used the lockdown as an opportunity to remove the church's cross.
Bob Fu from China Aid also shared a video showing the demolished Xiangbaishu Church in Yixing city, Jiangsu province on March 11.
“Religious persecution continues even in the midst of #WuhanVirus,” Fu captioned the video. “Xiangbaishu Church in Yixing city, Jiangsu province was destroyed by #CCP govt. Cross is our Glory.”
Another church in Huaishang district of the city of Bengbu, Anhui province also had its cross removed at the beginning of March, according to International Christian Concern. Ms. Yao, a local Christian, said the removal was led by the head of the local United Front Department, a Communist Party organ employed to govern religious affairs.
Amid the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, China, most of the churches across the country, both underground or state-approved, are able to meet online as of now.
However, in China’s Shandong province, two state-run Christian organizations, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and China Christian Council released a statement ordering all online preaching be ceased and churches that gather in secret be rooted out, reports China Aid.
In addition, it posits officials should “guide” Christians “in other ways, with the caveat of not gathering together!”
For the past 20 years, China has been labeled by the U.S. State Department as a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom violations.
Under President Xi Jinping, the government has destroyed numerous churches and removed their steeples and crosses, reflecting the Communist Party's concerns about the growing number of Christians in the country.
More than 60 million Christians live in China, at least half of whom worship in unregistered, or “illegal” underground churches.
China is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to persecution of Christians on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List. In addition to Christians, the communist government continues to persecute and monitor members of various religious minorities, including the detention of over 1 million Uighur and other Muslims in western China over the last three years. In 2018, the government banned the online sale of Bibles.
Recently, Fu warned that over the last two years, Xi’s “war on religion” has reached its “worst” in 40 years. He accused the president of turning faith into a “tool for the indoctrination of Communist ideology.”
For example, all religious leaders must pledge to obey the Communist Party’s ideology in their pulpit before they can be allowed to practice their religion, Fu said. Additionally, millions of Chinese Christian children have been forced to renounce their faith by signing a Communist Party prepared document.
“Clearly the aim is to exterminate any independent faiths,” he said, referencing not only the Christian faith, but the faith of Muslims, Buddhists, and others.
“This is a very, very serious signal,” he said.
Fu encouraged the international community to “pay attention to the truth” and “spread true information about faith communities and persecution” on social media.
He also stressed that faith communities must unite and speak with “one voice and for each other.”
“That is a powerful message,” Fu said.