Communist officials in the Zhejiang province of China forcibly removed crosses and other Christian symbols from Christians’ fishing boats.
The authorities also threatened to cancel their fishing permits.
According to a report, the officials from Qushan County, an island, without any legal documents forced Christian fishermen to remove crosses and “Emmanuel” slogans painted on their boats last Wednesday.
According to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog, China Aid, the officials appeared to target only Christians and not individuals from other beliefs. They 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. 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,” a fisherman wrote online, according to China Aid.
“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?,”Another fisherman wrote.
Data showed that about a third of the 70,000 residents in Qushan island are Christians. People in Qushan first heard the Gospel over 100 years ago and Christianity is a vital part of the life and culture there.
According to Open Doors USA, which monitors persecution in over 60 countries, 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.
The Chinese authorities had ordered Christians in both official, state-run churches and house churches to fly the Chinese flag and sing patriotic songs in services. They 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.
China Aid reported that 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,”.