China has resumed its campaign to remove crosses on Christian churches in the aftermath of the pandemic.
According to the Italian magazine Bitter Winter, in the first half of 2020 the Chinese Communist Party mandated the removal of over 900 crosses in the eastern provinces of Jiangsu, Anghui, and Shandong. The ChristianPost reported that church members were told that crosses and other religious symbols could not be physically higher than the Chinese flag. The removal of crosses is an integral portion of Xi Jinping's "sinicization" campaign. This work is being carried out by United Work Front Department officials.
Xi Jinping and the Communist party have used a variety of excuses for the removal of churches. In October of 2019, a church in Hebei was destroyed because it was allegedly "illegally occupying cultivated land." This removal of crosses has continued in Hebei this year.
The ChristianPost additionally interviewed church members at a Three-Self church in Yingdong who had their cross removed in April.
"If a church refuses to remove its cross, congregation members may lose their social benefits, like pensions and poverty-alleviation subsidies, and possibilities for their children's future employment will be affected." a church member explained.
The church member went on to lament the cross removal order and that protesting the mandate is not tolerated under the Chinese government.
According to Crux, a church in Anhui had its cross removed at 4 a.m. under police protection. One person had their cell phone confiscated for taking pictures.
In a worrying trend, many believers who attempted to interfere with and stop cross removals were either detained or injured by authorities.
China's persecution and suppression of religion and religious minorities has been condemned by both the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the U.S. State Department.
According to Open Doors USA's 2020 World Watch List, China ranks as the 23rd-worst nation in the world for the persecution of believers, especially Christians.