Crosses continue to be torn down, churches bulldozed and shrines of folk religions destroyed in a campaign that began last winter in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, but the implications for national religious policy in China remain unclear, a leading Protestant expert on religion in China said.
At least 150 crosses had been removed by early July, and many churches and local shrines have been pulled down by the provincial authorities, said Philip Wickeri, the adviser to the Anglican archbishop of Hong Kong for theological and historical studies. The provincial Communist Party secretary overseeing the policy, Xia Baolong, is an ally of President Xi Jinping, but there has not been any sign yet of similar campaigns in other provinces, Mr. Wickeri said.
The provincial authorities have said that they are only trying to remove structures that do not comply with local land use regulations, and they have denied that they are engaged in a campaign against religious institutions. But Mr. Wickeri dismissed this explanation, saying that the organized removal of crosses and demolition of places of worship, including in cases where church leaders had previously received local and provincial authorities’ consent, could only be seen in a religious context.