Communist officials in China’s Zhejiang province forcibly removed crosses and other Christian symbols from Christians' fishing boats and threatened to cancel their fishing permits, according to a report.
Officials from Qushan County, an island, did not show any legal documents when they forced Christian fishermen to remove crosses and “Emmanuel” slogans painted on their boats last Wednesday, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog China Aid reported.
The officials, who appeared to target only Christians, and not individuals from other beliefs, threatened the fishermen that if they refused to allow them to remove the Christian symbols, they would not grant them fishing permits and nor would they allow them to purchase gasoline or drive their boats.
“The government is completely unreasonable,” a fisherman wrote online, according to China Aid. “Fishing boats are our personal property. We have the right to put crosses on our boats. Religious freedom is written in the Constitution. However, it is just empty talk. The government never enforces the Constitution.”
Another fisherman wrote: “The county government is destroying personal property when they forcibly remove crosses, isn’t it? Why do they only remove crosses, but not signs and slogans from other religions? Why do crosses bother them? If they don’t like a cross, why can’t they simply regard it as the logo of ‘The Red Cross?’”
About a third of the 70,000 residents in Qushan island are Christians. People in Qushan first heard the Gospel more than 100 years ago and Christianity is a vital part of the life and culture there, according to China Aid.
Open Doors USA, which monitors persecution in over 60 countries, estimates that there are about 97 million Christians in China, a large percentage of whom worship in what China considers to be “illegal” and unregistered underground house churches.
According to recently-released reports, religious persecution in China intensified in 2020, with thousands of Christians affected by church closures and other human rights abuses.
Under the direction of President Xi Jinping, CCP officials are enforcing strict controls on religion, according to a report released in March by China Aid.
Christians in both official, state-run churches and house churches were ordered to fly the Chinese flag and sing patriotic songs in services.
Authorities in China are also cracking down on Christianity by removing Bible apps and Christian WeChat public accounts as new highly restrictive administrative measures on religious staff went into effect this year.
Last October, internet censorship targeting Christians in China became so severe that even official government-sanctioned Christian groups started using the Chinese Pinyin initials “JD” to replace Chinese characters for “Christ,” China Aid reported at the time.
China is ranked on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians.
The U.S. State Department has also labeled China as a “country of particular concern” for “continuing to engage in particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”