Local officials in Qushan county, Zhejiang province, China have removed crosses from the masts of fishing boats in a targeted attack on Christians.
County officials also removed the word “Emmanuel” painted on boats, and warned fishermen that they would be blocked from obtaining fishing permits if they did not allow the removal of Christian symbols.
The officials were not able to show any legal authorization for their actions.
“Fishing boats are our personal property,” said one fisherman. “We have the right to put crosses on our boats. Religious freedom is written in the constitution.”
Qushan is an island with a population of 70,000. Around a third of the population are Christians registered with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the official Protestant church of China, while others may also be believers.
In China persecution is often instigated at the level of a province or city rather than nationally, but in the knowledge that the national Communist Party authorities will approve.