Last Sunday a cross of a church in China's central Anhui Province was removed amidst the coronavirus crisis.
A head of the local United Front Work Department climbed on the top of Hongji Church in Huaishang District, Benghu and pulled down the cross by himself.
The cross demolition campaign started in early January in Anhui but suddenly ended due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Before the Chinese Lunar New Year, which fell on Jan. 25, local sources revealed that at least more than ten churches suffered the same fate, including churches in Guanting Town Church, Huagang Church of Shangpai Town, Feixi County, and Meixiaodian Church of Lujiang District, in Hefei, the provincial capital. The authorities claimed the crosses were a safety hazard because they were regarded as "too high and too bright."
A small church in Luyang District, Hefei resisted, saying the government officials did not have proper documentation for the removal. As of early January, the cross remained in place and the stalemate had not yet come to an end.
A local pastor said almost all the churches in Feixi County lost their crosses. On Jan. 8, fifty officials kept order in front of Meixiaodian Church, alongside an ambulance present in case of an emergency. A local leader for religious affairs threatened to close the church if the cross could not be demolished. Some believers cried out in prayer but they were hindered by public security officials. According to sources, the government targeted illegal churches, churches who were in conflict with their neighborhoods, and those where crosses were claimed to be safety hazards.
In addition, some new churches were forbidden to install crosses on the top of their church buildings. A church in Fengdong County was built without a cross on the roof. Some registered churches planned to relocate because of the demolition, but authorities refused to grant them land. One of the churches received 400,000 yuan as compensation, but its members became involved in embezzling the funds.
Before the campaign, there were reports that the number of members of churches in Hefei was under investigation. A church that used to have more than 400 members reported that they only had a little more than 200 members. To protect his church, another pastor reported to the government that his church had only 70 members, even though the number was really between two and three hundred. After investigation by the government the actual number of members was reduced to 170.