Demolition of church in China sparks fears of wider crackdown against Christians

Demolition of church in China sparks fears of wider crackdown against Christians

China Aid said in an update Wednesday that Chinese military police detonated explosives inside Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen, destroying the $2.6 million house of worship, which was owned by the Christians who worshiped there.

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.

Religious groups must register with local religious affairs authorities under Chinese law, the report said, adding the church was illegally constructed almost a decade ago in violation of building codes. Some of Golden Lampstand Church's leaders have been imprisoned for one to seven years, simply for serving at their church.

The action underscores long-standing tensions between religious groups and the officially atheistic Communist Party that strives for complete political and social control.

The Golden Lampstand was the second church to be demolished in China in less than a month.

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. This indicates that the order to destroy the church came from China's top officials instead of the less-powerful local authorities.

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

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ChinaAid President and Founder Bob Fu has urged the government to stop demolishing churches and to compensate the Christians who paid for the building.

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 US watchdog group that monitors religious freedom in China.

"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.

Describing the demolition, the pastor was quoted as saying that at first, police surrounded the church. He later heard a loud explosion.

The Golden Lampstand church was built a decade ago and cost a total of 17m yuan (£1.9m) at the time, according to the head pastor Yang Rongli.

The church member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a large anti-riot team carried out the demolition.

When asked if the congregants were beaten by the police, the church member said they had not. The couple and other church leaders were sentenced to prison on charges including illegally occupying agricultural land and assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic.

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