[China] The Golden Lampstand Church in no more. A prominent Christian evangelical church, in one of China’s poorest regions, has been destroyed. The church, reportedly built with almost $3 million which was raised from the donations of local worshippers, has been demolished by authorities.
Authorities in northern China’s coal country, this week demolished the well-known Christian mega-church. The church which was located in the city of Linfen, in the northern Shanxi province, had a large congregation of over 50,000.
Witnesses and overseas activists say paramilitary People’s Armed Police forces used heavy machinery such as excavators and dynamite on Tuesday to destroy the church. ChinaAid, a U.S.-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building, furthering long-standing tensions between religious groups and the officially atheistic Communist Party.
Freedom of religion is technically guaranteed under China’s constitution. However, Beijing’s leaders and local authorities are often seen as using technicalities to attack unregistered churches. Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace are among the most common. According to Chinese state media, at the time, church leaders were charged with illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order by getting together, and dismissed the demolition as part of routine removal of illegal buildings, but critics fear a more political motivation.
The church, has a congregation of more than 50,000, and has a long standing fued with the government. Hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the church and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009 that ended with church leaders receiving long prison sentences.
Pictures released by the US-based religious campaign group ChinaAid showed the church’s steeple and cross toppled on the floor around a pile of rubble.
Bob Fu, founder and director of ChinaAid, said. “The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights.