Chinese officials forcibly removed crosses from more than 90 fishing boats owned by Christians in July while allowing ships with symbols from other religions to leave the dock, according to a report from a religious liberty watchdog.
The confrontation took place in Zhejiang province’s Qushan Island, where more than 50 percent of the citizens are Christian, according to China Aid. The fishermen often decorate their boats with Christian symbols such as the cross and the word “Emmanuel” to “give them a sense of peace, hope, and protection,” International Christian Concern (ICC) reported.
But on July 28, government officials told the fishermen that if “the cross is not removed, we will not give you authorization, not allow you to pump gas, and not allow you to depart.” The fishermen tried to reason with the officials and asked them for the government documents backing up the order. When none were provided, the officials boarded the boats and removed the crosses. They also painted over the word “Emmanuel,” according to ICC.
“Although the freedom of religious belief is enshrined in the Constitution, it is, in reality, an empty promise, [the government] never executes it according to the law,” one fisherman told ICC.
More than 90 of the 130 Christian-owned fishing vessels on Qushan Island had their crosses removed, ICC said.
“While the Christians were targeted, vessels with religious symbols from other faiths were left untouched,” ICC reported. “The fishermen had nowhere to turn to, so they shared their anger online. They accuse the government of being unreasonable, since these vessels are personal property, and the installation of [a] cross is an individual’s freedom.”
It is only the latest report of persecution out of China. In May, China removed Bible apps from the app store and also deleted Christian accounts on WeChat, a social media platform.