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Crosses down flags up on churches

HONG KONG (UCAN): The hammer and sickle, the well-known symbol of the Communist state of China is now being flown atop churches in some parts of the country where once a cross reached for the sky.

In what is being described as the first visible step of the Communist Party of China to tightening its control on the activities of Christian Churches, the government is demanding the hoisting of the national flag where crosses have been removed in the last couple of years from the top of Church buildings in eastern Zhejiang province.

It has also installed government bulletin boards inside Church venues displaying official propaganda on religion and stationing party members inside each gathering venue.

The hammer and sickle has been hoisted at all 69 religious sites in Lanxi, including churches in Zhejiang, in the wake of a campaign, which appears to have stopped, to remove crosses from the tops of Church buildings.

During the campaign which began in early 2014 and continued at one intensity or another until early this year, about 1,700 crosses were removed from both Protestant and Catholic churches, often in highly confrontational circumstances.

A post on the Zhejiang Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee website on June 16 says that the United Front Work Department that oversees religious affairs, updated progress daily with a picture of and text describing each venue where the flag had been raised.

The post adds that religious sites in Lanxi are being told to hold a flag-raising ceremony and sing the national anthem at every important festival and holiday celebration as a form of patriotic education.

Besides Lanxi, which is under the jurisdiction of Hangzhou diocese, two neighbouring dioceses in Zhejiang, home to about two million Christians, one-tenth of whom are Catholic, also received similar notifications.

“Our Church in Meitou county has also been notified to get registered, fly a national flag, put up a bulletin board for religious policy propaganda and have a party member stationed there,” a member of the unofficial Church community in Wenzhou, who asked not to be named, said.

The person believes that it is part of a plan on behalf of Beijing to manipulate the resurrected meetings between China and the Vatican by trying to goad the Vatican into making a complaint.

“It is to tighten control, to turn us into a party religion,” the person explained. “This is to force the Vatican to show its hand and, if the Vatican condemns China, the Chinese authorities will blame it for being insincere.”

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