Chinese officials have ordered Christians to destroy the crosses on their churches and remove images of Jesus from their homes. They also demanded religious images be replaced with pictures of Communist leaders at the homes of impoverished believers, said independent outlet Bitter Winter.
Authorities have recently destroyed religious symbols by force in churches in multiple provinces, including Anhui, Jiangsu, Hebei and Zhejiang, according to US-based news site Radio Free Asia.
Officials in charge of religious affairs in Huainan in the eastern province of Anhui allegedly barged into the local Shiwan Christ Church to dismantle its cross on Saturday and Sunday, reported the Daily Mail.
‘When they arrived at the venue to impose the order by force at the weekend, they were met with dozens of believers who had gathered to try to prevent them from bulldozing the holy sign,’ reported Radio Free Asia citing local sources.
The government reportedly sent a crane and nearly 100 workers to demolish the crosses on Ao'di Christ Church and Yinchang Christ Church. Similar incidents were said to occur in Yongjia in Zhejiang Province on July 7.
Local believers told US-based pressure group China Aid that government workers forced their way into the churches, smashed the churches' properties and beat up the Christians, including a woman in her 80s, who tried to stop them.
A local government of Linfen in Shanxi Province summoned all village officials and directed them to crack down on religious activity, reported Bitter Winter.
The new developments are a continuation of the China's ruling Communist Party’s campaign, a widespread clampdown on all religious institutions in recent years. Chinese President Xi Jinping had ordered that all religions must 'Sinicise' to ensure they are loyal to the officially atheistic party.
In November last year, the Chinese central government ordered its censors to review and edit all translated versions of classic religious books to make sure that their messages reflect the principles of Socialism.
The order was given in November during a meeting held by the Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which oversees the ethnic and religious matters in China. The meeting was supervised by Wang Yang, Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
“Wang stressed that religious authorities must follow President Xi's instructions and interpret the ideologies of different religions in accordance with 'the core values of Socialism' and 'the requirements of the era'. He urged the officials to build 'a religious system with Chinese characteristics',” reported the Daily Mail.