Pastor Li Juncai and three members of his congregation were arrested by police in China as they protested against the forced removal of a cross from the roof of their church in Xinxiang, Henan province on 20 February.
The pastor was charged with “disrupting public service” after he challenged the arrival of police-escorted demolition crews at Zhongxin Church, an unofficial “house church” with a congregation of 700 Christians. One of the four detained, a pregnant woman, was later released on bail.
Eyewitnesses said around ten Christians, mainly women and elderly people, were beaten and taken away when they stood at a gate to block the access of two cranes. One said, “Police took away congregants … and beat those who resisted. Also, some Christians were dragged away.”
Officials forced open the locked gate and police prevented Christians from entering the site as the cranes removed the cross. After the cross had been taken down the demolition team installed a flagpole to display China’s national flag.
On 14 September 2018 some 1,000 government agents, including police, raided Zhongxin Church and took away items from the building.
More than 4,000 crosses have reportedly been removed from churches in Henan since the middle of last year. The removal programme is taking place as part of a government crackdown on official “three-self” churches and unofficial congregations, known as “house churches”, in a country where there are thought to be at least 150 million Christians. On 10 February 2019 authorities tore down a cross from Chengdong Christian Church , despite the protests of members of the congregation at the church, which was officially registered in 2007.