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China: Crosses burned at Christian churches, Xi Jinping photos installed

The crackdown on Christianity in China initially targeted primarily evangelical Protestant churches, but this report notes: “[Many] of the big official TSPM churches and the family churches were closed down.” When official as well as non-official churches are being closed down, the Chinese Orthodox Church is in an extremely vulnerable position. The Chinese Orthodox Church, which has its roots in the seventeenth century and experienced a flowering beginning in the 1980s, is not one of the Christian groups recognized by the Chinese government. Accordingly, it could be subjected to the same treatment from Chinese authorities that we see detailed in this article, including the destruction of crosses and the placement of portraits of Chinese leaders in the holy places.

The Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, requests once again that the Chinese government not only grant official recognition to the Chinese Orthodox Church, but also give full religious freedom to all Chinese Christians.

“China cracks down on religion, crosses burned at Christian churches, Xi Jinping photos installed,” by Ian Burrows and Bang Xiao, ABC News Australia, September 25, 2018:

China has intensified its crackdown on religion, with images emerging of crosses being burned and destroyed at Christian churches.

The crosses are said to often be replaced with objects such as the Chinese flag and photos of Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Communist Party leader Mao Zedong….

Liang Zhang, 48, the pastor of a house church in Henan’s Shangqiu city, said the state had been tightening its control over church operations.

“In the beginning, they said that children would not be allowed to enter, and signs on the outside should be removed, including the cross and other signs of faith,” Mr Zhang told the ABC….

Several videos sent by Mr Zhang to the ABC, and others circulating on social media, appear to show the forced destruction of crosses and changes to churches’ appearances.

In some videos, which Mr Zhang said were filmed recently in Henan, authorities use cranes to take down crosses, while others show officials forcing their way into underground churches.

The campaign corresponds with the Government drive to “Sinicise” religion by demanding loyalty to the officially atheist Communist Party and eliminating any challenge to its power over people’s lives.

Mr Zhang said the clampdown had become more dramatic in recent months, with even state-sanctioned churches targeted.

“Since June, they started to ask us to tear down things about Sunday School for kids,” Mr Zhang said.

“[Many] of the big official TSPM churches and the family churches were closed down,” he added, referring to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a state-sanctioned church….

“We now have our cross in the middle of our presidents’ portraits, which are President Xi and Chairman Mao’s portraits.”

The latest tightening of control follows moves earlier this year to pull bibles from sale through online bookstores across China, sparking outrage from Chinese Christians.

Crackdown comes as Vatican reaches deal with China

The crackdown on religion was continuing even as Beijing was negotiating a landmark deal with the Vatican over the appointment of bishops.

On Saturday, the Vatican signed an agreement giving it a long-desired and decisive say in the appointment of bishops in China, though critics labelled it a sell-out to the Chinese Government.

The deal resolved one of the major sticking points between China and the Vatican in recent years, with the Vatican agreeing to accept seven bishops who were previously named by Beijing without the Pope’s consent.

The Vatican has said the accord, a breakthrough after years of negotiations, was “not political but pastoral”, and hoped it would lead to “the full communion of all Chinese Catholics”.

Bob Fu, the founder of Christian human rights organisation ChinaAid, was among those to hit out at the agreement.

“While we understand the eagerness of Vatican for seeking more legitimacy in the eye of the Chinese Communist Party, this reported deal is nothing but a betrayal of both the millions of suffering persecuted Christians in China and the global Catholic Church,” he said….

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