Authorities in China's Henan province have reportedly torn down crosses atop several churches after claims that the structures themselves were built illegally.
"The parishes were illegally built without permission from the government," an official told China's state-run Global Times newspaper. "So, we demolished their crosses."
A representative with the Ethnic and Religious Bureau of Yichuan county, a small town south of Henan's capital, said "two or three" crosses were pulled down this year.
"Activities in the illegally-built parishes will be prohibited," the official told the newspaper. "Other legal Christian activities here will remain open."
This latest incident comes as Chinese Christians fear a new crackdown.
From 2014 to 2016, more than 1,500 crosses were torn down from churches in one Chinese province.
Last week, the China's government banned online retailers from selling the Bible.
Three months earlier, officials in Shanxi province demolished Golden Lampstand Church, home to some 50,000 parishioners.
China watchers say these and other recent moves by the central government signal an aggressive push to limit Christianity's influence in China.
"I think there is no religion in human society that is above the state," Chen Zongrong, a high-ranking Chinese official, recently told reporters during a briefing on religious affairs in China.
Mr. Chen released a new government white paper report showing that China is experiencing a religious boom.
In 1997, government figures showed China had 100 million believers among the five sanctioned religions of Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Protestantism. That number has doubled to 200 million today.
The report claims the number of Catholics grew from 4 million in 1997 to 6 million in 2018. During the same period, the number of Protestants rose from 10 million to 38 million.
However, most experts believe these figures are on the low end and don't take into account the burgeoning unregistered or so called "house-churches" that continue to spread throughout the country.
The white paper also warns that any attempts to "subvert the Chinese government and socialist system under the guise of religion" will be "resolutely" dealt with.
It further instructs all religious groups to "support the leadership of the CPC (Communist Party of China) and the socialist system; uphold and follow the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics; develop religions in the Chinese context; embrace core socialist values; carry forward China's fine traditions; integrate religious teachings and rules with Chinese culture; abide by state laws and regulations and accept state administration in accordance with the law."
Chen says while the report should serve as a guide for all religions, he says it is vital that people also understand the Chinese culture and environment in which they practice their beliefs in.
"Religion must adapt to the society it is in," Chen told reporters at the briefing. "If a religion is incompatible with its society, this religion cannot survive and develop."
Reprinted with permission from CBN.com. Copyright The Christian Broadcasting Network, all rights reserved.
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