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

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

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

The Golden Lampstand, a well-known evangelical megachurch in the city of Linfen, Shanxi province, was dramatically demolished with explosives on Tuesday.

ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building following, constructed with almost $2.6m (£1.9m) in contributions from local worshippers in one of China's poorest regions.

A church in northern China's coal country that once served as the worship center for more than 50,000 congregants is no longer standing.

A pastor at a nearby church, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he saw large numbers of paramilitary police on Tuesday surrounding the area around the church, which was being taken apart by heavy machinery.

The church was illegally constructed almost a decade ago in violation of building codes, it said.

In an annual report on freedom of religion, the USA state department found that "the government physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices".

This is not the first time Golden Lampstand Church has come face to face with Chinese government officials.

Evangelist Yang's daughter described the recent explosion and demolition. "Officials often prosecute such choices, however, and some of Golden Lampstand Church's leaders have been imprisoned for one to seven years, simply for serving at their church", ChinaAid said in a statement on January 9.

"I think this might be a new pattern against any independent house churches with an existing building or intention to build one", Bob Fu, founder of China Aid told The Guardian.

There were "more police than I could count" preventing a crowd on onlookers and worshipers from approaching the site, the pastor said.

Another church was demolished in a small village in Shaanxi in late December, according to AsiaNews, a China-focused Catholic news website.

The church was surrounded by the authorities beginning Sunday, Jan. 7, with its congregation blocked from entering the building and warned by local police to "stay away". "Workers smashed the church's glass", she said. "At this point, excavators are digging into the church, but we are not allowed to enter or watch", she said.

The state-run Global Times newspaper reported the official reason for the demolition was the building did not hold the necessary permits. "This church was built in 2008, there's no reason for them to destroy it now", he said.

Christians have protested against church demolitions, with a video captured in Shanxi in August showing a clash between Catholics and government representatives who were using bulldozers to destroy church property.