Citing safety concerns, officials in Qushan Island, Zhejiang Province forcibly removed crosses from several fishing boats on July 28. They also erased “Emmanuel” slogans painted on boats and informed fishermen that if they refused to permit the cross removals they would be denied fishing permits and access to gasoline.
“The population of Qushan Island is around 70,000. One–third of these are Christians registered as attending Three-Self churches. However, many unregistered house churches operate here, so the majority of the island is thought to be Christian,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley.
A row of crosses on Qushan’s fishing boats.
According to Representative Foley, people in Qushan first heard the gospel more than 100 years ago. “Local history records say that a British boat foundered on a reef near Qushan in 1863. After Qushan fishermen saved 24 crew members, the British Consulate sent the fisherman a large plaque saying ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ to thank them. They also sent them the Bible and missionaries.” Prior to that point, says Representative Foley, Buddhism was the dominant religion on the island.
“Putting crosses on fishermen’s boats become a Qushan Island tradition,” says Representative Foley. “They also paint the phrase ‘Emmanuel’, which means ‘God with us’, on their boats and on the front doors of their homes. Rows of crosses atop the boats in the Qushan harbor are one of the representative images of the island.”
According to Representative Foley, however, this year as the closed fishing season came to an end on August 1 and fishermen prepared for the coming open season, government officials informed them of the cross removal requirement, citing safety concerns. “When Christian fishermen asked county officials to show legal documents for their actions, they could not provide any,” says Representative Foley. “Instead, authorities dispatched contractors to forcibly remove the crosses and paint over the ‘Emmanuel’ slogans on the Christian fishing boats.”
Representative Foley says the fishermen are angry but feel they have no option but to comply. “One fisherman said, ‘We are upset because of the forcible cross removal, an unacceptable government action. Authorities ban us from fishing if we do not agree to remove crosses from our boats.’”
Qushan County CCP contractors removing a cross from a fishing boat.
Qushan County CCP contractors erasing an “Emmanuel” slogan from a fishing boat.
According to Representative Foley, fishermen do not consider the crosses to be a danger. “They say the crosses bring them peace when they are at sea, especially when due to the poor phone service they are not able to contact anyone for help if they encounter trouble. One fisherman asked, ‘Why do crosses bother them? If they don’t like a cross, why can’t they simply regard it as the logo of the Red Cross?’ But the cross removal requirement remains.”
Individuals interested in learning more about Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s partnership with Chinese unregistered churches canvisit www.vomkorea.com/en/project/china/.