CHINESE CHRISTIANS FIGHT GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN

China Toppling Crosses-1WUXI VILLAGE, China – The battle started when a government-hired crew tore down the metal cross atop the one-room church in this village surrounded by rice paddies last month.

The next day, a church member used his own welding torch to put it back. He was promptly detained and questioned for 10 hours on the charge of operating a welding business without a license.

A week later, the crew came back to remove the cross. Once again, church members put it back up, now tattered and a little shorter.

The church in the eastern village of Wuxi, about 300 miles south of Shanghai, has had its water and electricity cut off. Officials have attempted to install surveillance cameras and inquired about several church members’ work and their children’s schooling — a veiled threat that jobs and education might be at risk. But the congregation is not giving up.

“I won’t let them take down the cross even if it means they would shoot me dead,” said Fan Liang’an, 73, whose grandfather helped build the church in 1924.

Across Zhejiang province, which hugs China’s rocky southeastern coast, authorities have toppled — or threatened to topple — crosses at more than 130 churches. In a few cases, the government has even razed sanctuaries.

Authorities say the churches in question had violated building codes, even though they generally won’t specify which ones. They also deny that they are specifically targeting churches, and point to the demolition of other tens of thousands of other buildings, religious and non-religious, that have apparently broken regulations.

But experts and church leaders in Zhejiang, the only province where the incidents are happening, believe there is a campaign to repress Christianity, which has grown so rapidly as to alarm the atheist Communist government.

It comes at a time when Beijing has been tightening ideological controls, placing more restrictions on journalists, rights lawyers — many of whom are Christians — and political activists since President Xi Jinping took office in early 2013. Read More HERE

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