Chinese authorities blow up Christian church

China's Golden Lampstand Church falls.   The Guardian via YouTube

The Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen in the northern Shanxi province was destroyed with dynamite and heavy machinery, witnesses and overseas campaign groups said.

Authorities placed the bombs in underground worship halls beneath the church and proceeded to destroy its above-ground building.

The group explained that the communist country's notorious military police, which carried out the demolition January 9, has been under the direct control of the central government since the head of the public security bureau was arrested previous year. This indicates that the order to destroy the church came from China's top officials instead of the less-powerful local authorities.

"It is like Taliban/ISIS style of persecution against a peaceful church", he said, adding that it had around 50,000 members.

The state has reportedly launched a crackdown on house churches and other religious groups that are unsanctioned by the government, and some of the Shanxi church's leaders have been thrown in jail for participating in their religious activities.

Congregation members were beaten by 400 officials during an incident in September 2009, which resulted in church leaders receiving lengthy prison sentences on nonsense charges such as assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic and illegally occupying agricultural land, according to the statement.

The similar demolition of a Catholic church previous year is prompting Christians to worry that the central government will begin ordering the mass destruction of church buildings nationwide as new religious regulations go into effect next month.

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"The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights".

Global Times, a state newspaper, described the building's destruction as part of a "citywide campaign to remove illegal buildings", and quoted an unidentified official as saying the church had been "secretly" constructed without proper permits and was initially disguised as a warehouse. Thirty of the members were in critical condition.

When Yang "Esther" Xue, the daughter of two of the church's pastors, learned of the beatings, she phoned home, but no one answered. Churches must be officially sanctioned and pastors must adhere to a host of rules imposed by the government.

ChinaAid said the building was built by married evangelists Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli with almost $3 million in contributions from local Christians, but that it had never been registered with authorities, a legal requirement.

"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.

UG Christian News has learnt that hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the same church and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009.

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