HONG KONG (CNS) — Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong has issued an “urgent appeal” to Communist Party chiefs in Beijing, calling on them to order a halt to an ongoing cross-removal campaign from Christian churches in Zhejiang province.

“I sincerely and urgently appealed to the central government to contact the Zhejiang provincial government and investigate the real situation and stop all illegal cross removals,” the cardinal said in an Aug. 12 statement. His remarks were reported by ucanews.com.

The Chinese authorities should “return to the right path, placing supreme importance on the constitution, ruling the country according to the law, and governing by the law,” he said.

The cardinal also called on Catholics in Hong Kong to pray and fast for religious dignity and freedom in order to share the sufferings of their persecuted brothers and sisters on the mainland.

A day earlier, Chinese authorities discounted rumors circulating among Christian leaders and on social media that the 20-month campaign, which has seen the removal of more than 1,200 crosses, would be halted.

Earlier in August, Anglican Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong called on Chinese authorities to halt the cross removals in Zhejiang province, which is home to an estimated 2 million Christians, including 210,000 Catholics.

Observers on social media have criticized Hong Kong’s Christian leaders, accusing them of dragging their feet in issuing responses to the cross removals.