No plan to halt church cross removals in Wenzhou: official

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2015-8-12 0:18:01

Officials of Wenzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province said Tuesday they will continue to remove "unsafe" rooftop crosses from churches, despite claims by local pastors that the campaign has been suspended, the Global Times learned.

 "We haven't received any notice to halt the campaign," said an official surnamed Wang from the office of "three revise and one demolition" in Leqing, Zhejiang Province. "The demolition is still going on and one cross was removed a few days ago."

The "three revise and one demolition" is a three-year campaign aimed at hastening urbanization and "building a more beautiful Zhejiang." The campaign demolishes and renovates what officials there consider as dangerous buildings, many of which are churches.

Pastors in Wenzhou reached by the Global Times said they have heard that the demolition was suspended in many places.

Officials from the local ethnic and religious affairs bureau in Rui'an, a region under Wenzhou, did not respond to questions on whether the campaign was suspended when reached by the Global Times, but said "officials are busy handling problems caused by the Typhoon Soudelor" in the past week.

The "three revise and one demolition" campaign has sparked protests since 2014.

In April 2014, hundreds of church faithful protested outside the Sanjiang church in Yongjia county, Wenzhou over a demolition order, but the church was finally torn down.

While the government claimed that the size of the church, which covered an area of over 7,000 square meters, had severely breached urban construction standards, a maximum of 1,881 square meters, parishioners said the demolition had violated their right of worship.

"Religious issues are often very sensitive," said Wang, adding that the campaign was conducted in a prudent manner to avoid conflict.

Wang's colleague also said that they are not "demolishing," but "relocating" the church cross from the rooftop of the church to its façade or indoors.

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