“Over the past two years, [Chinese] officials and residents said, the authorities have torn down crosses from 1,200 to 1,700 churches, sometimes after violent clashes with worshipers trying to stop them….
“The campaign has been limited to Zhejiang Province, home to one of China’s largest and most vibrant Christian populations. But people familiar with the government’s deliberations say the removal of crosses here has set the stage for a new, nationwide effort to more strictly regulate spiritual life in China….
“In a major speech on religious policy last month, Mr. Xi…warned that religions in China must ‘Sinicize,’ or become Chinese. The instructions reflect the government’s longstanding fear that Christianity could undermine the party’s authority. Many human rights lawyers in China are Christians, and many dissidents have said they are influenced by the idea that rights are God-given.
“’What has been happening in Zhejiang is a test,’ said Fan Yafeng, an independent legal scholar in Beijing. ‘If the government views it as a success, it will be expanded.’”