A provincial government in China is facing accusations of tearing down and burning the crosses of up to 2,000 churches.
The government of the Zhejiang province has systematically removed crosses from churches in the area, as well as jailing a Protestant pastor for financial crimes and illegally bringing people together for gatherings, according to CBS. In 2015, a law was proposed placing limits on the display of religious symbols on buildings, giving the local government legal grounds to remove crosses from churches.
China's national communist government is officially atheist, though it allows a limited freedom of religion only to approved faiths, who are required to worship under the guidance of leaders who are considered loyal to the government. CBS reports that tens of millions of Christians in China practice their faith in underground "family churches" where they can avoid the limitations placed on them by the state.
"We have up to 30 regular members at this church," said Xu Yonghai, who hosts a family church in his small apartment, "but some of us are in jail from time to time."
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When CBS asked members of the church how many among them had been detained for their religion, every member answered that they had. Yonghai was jailed for two years after he wrote about the conditions faced by Christians in China.
Guo Hong, a member of the family church, said, "There is no justice in this country. So we chose to believe in God and place our hope in his hands."
Bob Fu, member of a U.S.-based religious activism group called China Aid, said that the proposed law regarding religious symbols on buildings was an attempt by the Chinese government to legitimize the suppression of Christians in China, a population that some estimate is even higher than the number of registered members of China's Communist Party.
"To continue to forcefully remove and ban the cross on the rooftop of the church buildings demonstrates the Chinese regime's determination to contain the rapid growth of Christianity in China," Fu said.