Thousands of church crosses in China removed in government's bid to eradicate Christianity

(REUTERS / Stringer)A white dove perches near a cross atop a church in Telkaif near Mosul, in the province of Nineveh, July 20, 2014.

Thousands of church crosses in China have already been removed as part of the government's bid to reportedly eradicate Christianity in the country.

Since the Chinese government launched its campaign against church crucifixes two years ago to regulate religious establishments, two thousand crosses have already been taken down in the coastal province of Zhejiang. Some of those who protested the state's attack on Christianity have been arrested, including prominent human rights lawyer Zhang Kai, according to the Express.

Atty. Kai, who represented some of the Christians arrested for suspected financial crimes after protesting the cross removal, was also detained after he lodged a legal campaign against the government. After six months, the human rights lawyer allegedly delivered a forced public confession of his crimes against the state in connection with his efforts to oppose the cross demolitions. He was released by authorities after several appeals.

Chinese officials explained that the crosses were demolished because they violate the state rules on buildings. However, rights groups say the cross removal campaign is the government's way of suppressing Christianity and religious liberty, the Mirror reports.

On Dec. 19, 2014, men wearing plainclothes forcibly dismantled a cross from the roof of a Christian nursing home in the city of Hangzhou, causing three elderly people to faint in shock. While the men only said the orders to remove the cross "came from up high," activists said at the time that the Christian community in the province was being targeted because of its growing population.

Meanwhile, a district ethnic and religious affairs bureau official said the cross was only "rectified" and not removed to make the area more "scenic." The official, who did not give his name, said the Christian nursing home went against government standards because religious activities should not be conducted in the place.

Texas-based Christian advocacy group Christian Aid reported last month that the removal of 2,000 crosses is part of China's "Three Rectifications and One Demolition" campaign. In addition, the organization said the state has destroyed 49 churches in the first quarter of 2016 as part of its bid to erase Christianity in the country.

Based on government figures, there are more than 28 million practicing Christians in China. Last year, it was reported that the number of Christians in China is set to reach 247 million by 2030.