Christians from eastern China's Zhejiang Province are making thousands of small crosses and painting them red, as a way to protest against the local government's sometimes violent campaign to tear down crosses from a growing number of Christian churches.
An anonymous follower told Radio Free Asia that the small crosses will be used "to hang at home, to carry around, or [to hang] in cars." He added they hope to "'let the crosses be everywhere," and to "express their simple belief as Christians."
According to the Financial Times, there are about 100 million Christians in China.
That makes them over 7% of the total population of the world's most populous nation. Meanwhile the ruling Communist Party only has 86.6 million official members in comparison — meaning Christianity has already a bigger membership pool than Communism in China.
This has led to the surge in cross construction that's mostly taking place in Wenzhou, a coastal city known as the “Jerusalem of the East” for its number of churches.
Wenzhou church groups estimate more than 1.2 million people, at least 10% of the city population, attend Protestant congregations regularly.
Guo Baosheng — a religion analyst with China Aid Association, a Christian non-profit group that promotes religious freedom in China — has taken to calling the campaign the "Cross Movement."
The movement isn't isolated to Wenzhou. Red crosses are also being displayed in Taizhou, another city in Zhejiang Province where Christianity is booming. Authorities removed the cross at the top of Puqingtang Church on Monday.
According to Radio Free China, a cross was set on fire while being torn down on July 21 in Taizhou. Activists say that all the crosses on 54 churches in the Yuhuan area of the city will be torn down by the end of July.
In one government document, the Zhejiang campaign uses tactful language to refer to the campaign against churches it has carried out since 2013.
The document refers to "Three Rectifications and One Demolition" — the rectifications (or "corrections") are performed on buildings referred to as "old residential neighborhoods, old industrial areas and villages inside cities" and the demolition is of "illegal buildings."
Even crosses from churches over 100 years old are among the government's targets. Some churches have been demolished entirely.
More than 260 church groups from all over China have taken part in a "fasting rally," in which churches will be fasting in turn, each for 24 hours, until the end of the crackdown on churches.
Local worshipers are doing all they can to protect their faith. But when faced with the well-equipped law enforcement, all they can do is to cover the crosses with their bodies.
This 85-year-old man was photographed sitting on the top of a Wenzhou church, embracing the stone cross on top for its protection.
Beimeng Fu is a BuzzFeed News World Reporter covering China and is based in New York.
Contact Beimeng Fu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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