China church demolition sparks fears of campaign against Christians

See Chinese cops destroy evangelical megachurch

In China, Christians Weep As Paramilitary Police Level Their Church With Explosives

All that is left of the Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen in Shanxi province is the church's steeple and cross which now lays on top of a large pile of rubble.

Authorities in northern China's coal country this week demolished a well-known Christian mega-church, underscoring long-standing tensions between religious groups and the officially atheistic Communist Party.

Authorities however routinely crack down on construction of unauthorized places of worship and dozens of churches have been demolished in recent years. Some of Golden Lampstand Church's leaders have been imprisoned for one to seven years, simply for serving at their church. These regulations grant the Chinese Communist Party increased power over religion, paving the way for escalated persecution.

"The police surrounded the Golden Lampstand Church". Millions of Christians, Buddhists and Muslims also worship in state-sanctioned assemblies.

In China religion freedom is only limited to papers but in actual life there is religious freedom as the Chinese government demands priests to stick to the laws and churches to be approved by the government.

As many as 1,200 crosses have been removed from churches in Zhejiang province since 2015, with officials arguing that numerous demolitions have been down to building code violations.

Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace are among the most common.

United States government-backed Radio Free Asia says the church had come under strict monitoring by local authorities.

2009. Credit Andy Wong  Associated Press
2009. Credit Andy Wong Associated Press

"A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association and they secretly built a church using the cover of building a warehouse", a government department official was quoted as saying.

On Tuesday, officers of the People's Armed Police, a state paramilitary organization, detonated explosives in the church's underground sanctuary and destroyed the rest of the building, according to ChinaAid, a USA watchdog group that monitors religious freedom in China.

This is not the first time the church has faced persecution, however.

"The repeated persecution of the Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights", said Bob Fu, the founder and president of ChinaAid, who called for the global community to openly condemn the bombing of the church. He later heard a loud explosion.

A church member who spoke on condition of anonymity told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that the demolition was conducted by "anti-riot team, quite large".

On Dec. 27, authorities also demolished a Catholic church in Shaanxi province, southwest of Shanxi province, destroying an altar and confiscating vestments, according to ChinaAid.

While authorities did not block the church's construction, they later cracked down on it, and the couple and other church leaders were sent to prison.

The government had no logic of smashing the Golden Lampstand chapel since it was constructed in 2008 costing 17m yuan said a female head priest Yang Rongli.

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