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Demolition of Churches in China

branch of theGolden Lampstand Church
A church in northern China was demolished
this week, the second in less than a month,
sparking fears of a wider campaign against
Christians as authorities prepare to enforce
new laws on religion.
Police cordoned off the area around the
Golden Lampstand Church church in Linfen,
Shanxi province on Sunday before
construction workers detonated explosives
inside, according to witnesses and the head
pastor. After the initial explosion, crews broke
apart the remaining pieces with diggers and
A Catholic church in the neighbouring
province of Shaanxi was also reportedly
demolished last month, 20 years after it
originally opened.
China guarantees freedom of religion on
paper, but in practice authorities heavily
regulate many aspects of religious life.
Churches must be officially sanctioned and
pastors must adhere to a host of rules
imposed by the government.
The restrictive policies have given rise to
“house” churches, independent places of
worship that exist outside official channels.
Authorities periodically arrest pastors or
demolish buildings used by unsanctioned
But authorities have taken a harder line since
2013 against towering crosses and large
cathedrals. Officials launched a sweeping
crackdown on churches in Zhejiang province
that accelerated in 2015, and more than 1,200
crosses have been removed, according to
In an annual report on freedom of religion, the
United States 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”.
A pastor at a nearby church arrived after the
blast at the Golden Lampstand Church and
watched construction crews break apart the
remains of the building. The pastor asked his
name not be published for fear of retaliation
by the authorities.
There were “more police than I could count”
preventing a crowd on onlookers and
worshipers from approaching the site, the
pastor said.
“My heart was sad to see this demolition and
now I worry about more churches being
demolished, even my own,” he said. “This
church was built in 2008. There’s no reason
for them to destroy it now.”
The Golden Lampstand Church was built a
decade ago and cost a total of 17m yuan
(about £1.9 million) at the time, according to
the head pastor Yang Rongli. Yang previously
spent seven years in jail on charges of
“assembling a crowd to disturb traffic order”,
and has been under police surveillance since
her release in October 2016, according to
China Aid, a Christian NGO based in the
United States.
“I think this might be a new pattern against
any independent house churches with an
existing building or intention to build one,”
said Bob Fu, founder of China Aid. “It also
could be a prelude to enforcing the new
regulation on religious affairs that will take
effect in February.”
The government revised laws regulating
religious groups last 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”.
Another church was demolished in a small
village in Shaanxi in late December, according
to AsiaNews , a China-focused Catholic news
website. The building was built in 1999 and
local authorities did not give a reason for the
Officials at the Linfen bureau of religious
affairs did not respond to requests for
•Text courtesy of The Guardian UK

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