China’s Zhejiang province has a large Christian population, but that will become quite a bit less apparent if authorities have their way. Last week, government officials proposed regulations that would ban crosses from being mounted atop houses of worship, and laid out very specific rules about what remaining crosses should look like.
In the past year, authorities have removed hundreds of Christian crosses in Zhejiang, and ordered the demolition of some churches—part of what local Christians say they fear is a widening crackdown on organized religion in China. The government favors “Christianity with Chinese characteristics,” Fan Yafeng, director of the Zhongfu Shengshan Research Institute, told the New York Times. The government “wants to destroy the relationship between Christianity and Chinese democratization,” he added.
The province’s southeastern city of Wenzhou has such a high concentration of Christians (they make up about 15% of the city’s 1.5 million population) that it is sometimes referred to as “China’s Jerusalem.” Rooftop crosses give certain parts of the city a distinctive look and feel. Many of the crosses have neon lights. (“Concern rises in Wenzhou as Christianity booms in capitalist fashion,” read a headline last year in the state-controlled Global Times.)
The proposed regulations run to 36 pages (link in Chinese), and permit crosses only if they’re fully attached to a church’s facade, which would mean the end of Wenzhou’s distinctive skyline. And the color of a cross should blend in with the building, not stand out.
The regulations list some oddly specific requirements, too. For instance, the crosses on Protestant churches should be set at a 3 to 2 ratio, compared to 1 to 0.618 (a proportion known as the Golden Ratio) for their Catholic equivalents. And the ratio of the cross’s length and building’s height should be no bigger than 1 to 10. No explanation for the requirements was given.