Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong has launched an “urgent appeal” to chiefs of the Communist Party in Beijing, urging them to end an ongoing cross-removal campaign in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, reported ucanews.com.
The exhortation also came less than a week after Hong Kong’s Anglican archbishop, Paul Kwong, exhorted Chinese authorities to stop removing crosses in Zhejiang province.
In an Aug. 12 statement, the Asian cardinal stated, “I sincerely and urgently appealed to the central government to contact the Zhejiang provincial government and investigate the real situation and stop all illegal cross removals.”
Reuters reported that the province of Zhejiang has a growing Christian population, and that Christians there report that authorities have been taking down crosses on churches since last year. Authorities have apparently claimed that crosses are being removed for safety concerns or because of violations of building regulations.
The cardinal called for Chinese authorities to “return to the right path, placing supreme importance on the constitution, ruling the country according to the law, and governing by the law.”
Cardinal John Tong Hon also exhorted Catholics in Hong Kong to pray and fast for religious dignity and freedom as a way of sharing in the sufferings of their persecuted brothers and sisters on the mainland.
The US State Department’s annual report on religious freedom notes China’s abuse of believers. Though the Constitution states citizens enjoy freedom of religious belief, the report notes that in practice, religious freedom is restricted and believers face government harassment, detention and even torture.
There are five state-sanctioned “patriotic religious associations” (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant) in China. Many Catholics worship in the “underground” Catholic Church, which resists government control and maintains its fidelity to the Pope.