After the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reached an agreement with churches affiliated with the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPCA) based upon certain provisions to allow Catholics to peacefully maintain their worship and religious activities, Chinese government officials have continued to target and punish Catholic churches.
In China, where a large network of underground Christian churches exists, churches registered with the CPCA have been prone to targeted harassment from CCP officials. As one church deacon in Hubei Province explained, "registered churches are sometimes harassed more than the unregistered ones. They also have their crosses removed."
According to reports from Bitter Winter and previous reports on ChristianityDaily, officials have been removing and destroying symbolic figures and structures of Catholic churches across China. Five months ago, officials removed the Virgin Mary and cross from atop a Catholic church because the cross was "taller than the village committee building." On June 2, authorities destroyed pillars and religious symbols such as the cross. Less than a week later, another CPCA church in the rural Shandong Province experienced the same destruction. Its cross and religious symbols were removed. In addition, the entrance with the church's name was found covered up.
On November 10 of last year, the Tancheng county government demanded that a CPCA registered church remove its bell tower and statue of Jesus declaring that such religious structures were not allowed. Church officials were forced to watch the CCP officials demolish their religious symbols, leaving the church bare of any holy imagery or uniqueness.
In one Catholic church in Ji'an, a prefecture-level city in Jiangxi, a portrait of president Xi Jinping, surrounded by propaganda slogans, replaced a painting of the Virgin Mary.
The United Front Work Department (UFWD) comprises nine bureaus, including the Ethnic and Religious Work Bureau. The UFWD has participated in the removal of crosses and Catholic symbols from churches such as one that has been state-approved for 83 years.
This trend of cross removals and government mandated destruction of religious symbolism is clearly at odds with previous agreements between the CCP and Catholic church. The Hebei deacon said, "The government is even more confident in controlling registered churches. Had we known this beforehand, we would not have joined the CPCA.