.- This month’s meeting of China’s National People’s Congress, convened March 5, will likely confirm a constitutional change eliminating term limits and allowing President Xi Jinping to stay in power beyond 2023.
Xi, who assumed office in March 2013, has overseen a national campaign to demolish churches and remove more than 1,000 crosses from China’s churches during his first five year term as president, leaving human rights advocates wondering what his latest consolidation of power means for the future of religious freedom in China.
“Under President Xi, the overall level of religious freedom in the country has decreased,” Benedict Rogers, East Asia team leader for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, told CNA.
“This downward trend fits into a broader pattern of increasing human rights abuses under President Xi, accompanied by and manifested through a shrinking space for civil society, a heightened sensitivity to perceived challenges to Party rule, and the introduction of legislation that curtails civil and political rights in the name of national security,” Rogers continued.
Just one week prior to China’s annual congress, local government authorities forcibly removed the crosses, statues, and bell towers from a Catholic church in Yining city Feb. 27, according to a Union of Catholic Asian News report.
On Dec. 27, another Catholic church more than 2,000 miles away in Shaanxi province was completely demolished despite having previously obtained the necessary legal permits from the Religious Affairs Bureau, according to Asia News.
Read more at Catholic News Agency.