Govt-run newspaper denies cross burning

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-6 0:43:01

Church structure in Zhejiang was a ‘safety hazard’: report

A government-run newspaper in East China's Zhejiang Province on Sunday denied claims that the cross of a church had been intentionally "burned" by a local government in the province.The report came after photos of a burning cross on top of a church went viral in May, triggering discussions as to whether the cross was deliberately set on fire, as several churches have been ordered to take down their crosses in the province.

"The cross on top of the Huzhen church is dangerously close to the lightning rod.  The cross contains electrical wiring and bulbs," read the report of the Zhejiang Daily.

Built in 1991, the 1,890-square-meter church is the largest venue for Christians in Huzhen, with about 800 churchgoers, said the report.

The report said that the safety risk was found during a routine inspection by local authorities of Huzhen in April. The 2.2-meter-long cross was 25 meters off the ground and was found right next to a lightning rod, which authorities regarded as dangerous because it contains electric wires and tubes.

"Church officials and local Christians agreed there was a need to look into the problem," the report said.

It added that the based on a request from church staff, local government helped call technicians to replace the cross, as the church didn't have competent staff to install a cross that meets the safety standards.

"The local government had negotiated many times with church staff to make sure religious activities are unhampered, which also reflects its respect toward believers and upholding religious freedom," said the report.

Churches across Zhejiang, a province with the largest number of Christians, have been asked to modify the architecture of the buildings since 2013.  Provincial regulations state that dilapidated houses, factories and buildings that fail to meet safety standards will be either renovated or demolished.

The province issued draft regulation plans on the construction of religious buildings in May, which specifies the size of crosses at Protestant and Catholic churches. It is reportedly aimed at protecting citizens' religious freedom and promoting "scientific and normative" architectural design.

An official of the Yongjia government, Wenzhou in Zhejiang previously told the Global Times that other religious places of worship, including Buddhist temples, have also been affected by the campaign, which has involved nearly 4 million square meters of illegal constructions by April 2014. 

Wenzhou is a city of roughly 1 million Christians among its 8 million residents. 

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