Groups of hundreds of Chinese officers sent by the Communist Party demolished over a dozen church crosses in China's coastal Zhejiang province this past week, leading to confrontations with protesters, some of whom were beaten and bloodied.
China Aid, which tracks Christian persecution in China, said demolitions are part of an ongoing campaign since 2014 to take down church crosses over alleged building code violations, though the group has said the targeting is specifically aimed at halting the rise of Christianity in the country.
Although Christian protesters have been gathering outside churches to protect the crosses, police forces in response have also been growing, sometimes grouping by the hundreds, and using force to disband the Christians.
The group reported of an incident last week where over 100 demolition workers took down the cross atop Shangen Church, and severely injured a female church member.
"The woman was knocked to the ground and later taken to the hospital for her injures. Police and security guards at the demolition were armored and carried riot shields to hold back church members," China Aid explained.
Several other churches saw their crosses taken down last week as well, including Fenggangta Church. One anonymous church member described the demolition, saying: "[The officers] ordered us not to resist. [They said] if we put up a fight, they would tear down the church instead."
Christians have been given a choice to voluntarily dismantle the crosses, or risk forcing the government to send soldiers to forcibly taken them down.
Churches across Zhejiang in particular have been receiving government notices telling them that they must comply, or face consequences. Churches that have refused the orders, such as Zhongchang Church in Wenzhou, have also been punished by having their water and electricity cut out.
China Aid President Bob Fu previously told The Christian Post that the targeting of churches reflects the increasing fears the Communist Party has regarding the growth of Christianity in the country.
"The top leadership is increasingly worried about the rapid growth of Christian faith and their public presence, and their social influence," Fu told CP.
Beside the beatings and arrests of protesters, pastors and human rights activists have also been targeted in the crackdown, with not even top church-sanctioned officials being safe. After speaking out again the forced church demolitions, megachurch leader Gu Yuese of Hangzhou's Chongyi Church, the largest government sanctioned church in China, was dropped from his position and later arrested.
What is more, Roman Catholic officials have been told that they will be required to carry around ID cards stating their faith, something which groups like International Christian Concern have compared to "Nazi-like" requirements. ICC also noted that other Christian denominations, including Protestants, are likely to also be forced to comply to such rules.