Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Chinese authorities demolish Christian church

Chinese authorities demolish Christian church

Police and other local officials in the city of Linfen in China's Shanxi province demolished a large Christian church on January 9 and have forced the congregants to keep quiet about it, according to witnesses.

The Guardian reports that a Catholic church in the neighboring province of Shaanxi was also demolished in a similar fashion last month, which is stoking fears among Christians that the widespread crackdown on churches continues in full force.

According to Texas-based Christian human rights group ChinaAid, the Golden Lampstand Church had been experiencing pressure from the government since it was established in 2009.

The government revised laws regulating religious groups past year for the first time since 2005, increasing control over a places of worship from limiting the construction of statutes outside churches to imposing fines of up to 300,000 yuan (£34,000) for holding "unauthorised religious activities".

Pastor A (whose name is concealed for security reason) said that Christian worshippers were hindered by police to reach the church site which was being demolished.

Under President Xi Jinping, the government has destroyed churches or removed their steeples and crosses as part of a campaign that reflects the Communist Party's long-standing fear that Christianity, viewed as a Western philosophy, is a threat to the party's authority.

Freedom of worship was harshly restricted past year in China, where authorities "physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups", the U.S. State Department said in an annual report released in August.

But still occasionally pastors are arrested and buildings are destroyed because authorities considered them unofficial groups who gather in a building for worship.

There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China, many of whom worship in independent congregations like the Golden Lampstand. "This church was built in 2008, there's no reason for them to destroy it now", he said.

Members of the megachurch, however, have previously clashed with authorities, including in 2009 when the police confiscated Bibles and imprisoned several of the congregation's leaders.

An official at the local religious affairs bureau denied the demolition took place, the Voice of America reported. A church member who spoke to the service over the phone said a large "anti-riot team" carried out the demolition and that he had been placed under house arrest after the incident.

While Golden Lampstand Church belongs to China's large number of "house churches" that are not registered with the Chinese regime and are therefore completely exposed to any sort of crackdown on religion, even the state-sanctioned "Three-Self Churches" are not exempt from the regime's persecution. The authorities wanted to delimit the religious building construction in the region.

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