Hong Kong archbishop demands Beijing halt church demolitions

“Now that the authorities forcefully removed the cross without obvious and immediate danger, it is damaging religious freedom and trampling on Christianity,”  Archbishop Paul Kwong

The Archbishop and Primate of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (HKSKH), the Most Rev. Paul Kwong, has called on the government in Beijing to halt the campaign of cross demolitions waged by local officials in Zhejiang. The Associated Press reports that authorities in Zhejiang Province are under a two-month deadline to remove crosses from public display from the 4000 churches in the Southern Chinese province. The campaign is believed have the support of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), whose administration has launched the most severe crackdown in decades on groups that might challenge Communist Party rule. Catholic leaders in China have denounced the campaign, as have leaders of the state-sponsored China Christian Council. In an article in his diocesan newspaper, the Echo, Archbishop Kwong said he was “sad and sorry” to learn of reports of clashes between Christians and police in the campaign that has seen 1200 crosses removed and dozens of churches demolished. “Placing a cross on top of a Church is a common practice in Christianity. If the Zhejiang authorities think there is a safety concern to have an oversized cross, it only needs to order the church to change for a smaller one,” said the archbishop. “Now that the authorities forcefully removed the cross without obvious and immediate danger, it is damaging religious freedom and trampling on Christianity,” he said, adding that he was writing to government leaders in Beijing asking them to intervene and halt the destruction. The archbishop said he had first written to Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), in June 2014, about the campaign. Mr. Wang responded in October that the demolition campaign was directed towards illegally constructed churches. However, the Zhejiang authorities have demolished churches belonging to the state Protestant and Catholic Churches, in addition to independent congregations.

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