By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today.
Days after at least a dozen crosses were forcibly removed from churches, China formally protested a United States report on its lack of religious freedom. Now a proposal has surfaced to ban crosses entirely from the rooftops of churches in Zhejiang, one of China’s most Christian provinces.
In March, a Chinese bishop reported that the government was finally halting a campaign which has removed hundreds of crosses from “China’s Jerusalem,” the coastal city of Wenzhou. (An interactive timeline was produced by Christian Solidarity Worldwide.)
But stories of more removals continued to surface. The Chinese government now says it won’t stop the campaign until 2016, according to China Aid, which has closely tracked the “Three Rectifications and One Demolition” campaign.
In fact, officials have proposed a new rule that would prevent future crosses from topping churches. According to the Associated Press:
A draft of rules on religious structures released by government agencies this week says the crosses should be wholly affixed to a building facade and be no more than one-tenth of the facade’s height. The symbol also must fit with the facade and the surroundings, the proposal says. The draft does not provide the rationale for the proposal.
In a thorough report, The New York Times links to the text of the draft regulation and notes its precision. For example: “Crosses on the facades of Catholic churches are to have a height-to-width ratio of one to 0.618. For Protestant crosses, the ratio should be three to two.”
Last week, Zhejiang officials removed 12 crosses from churches in the city of Lishui, burning one when a removal machine malfunctioned. On Monday, the Chinese national government filed a diplomatic protest over this year’s annual report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which labeled Chinese religious freedom violations “severe” and “systematic.”
“This report … is full of political bias and makes arbitrary and unfounded criticism of China,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told news outlets in a daily briefing. She said that Chinese citizens had “ample” freedom religious freedom under law.