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Chinese authorities blow up Christian church

14 Января 2018

Christians in China prefer to worship independently in house churches because there are no such restraints.

Authorities in China demolished a large church in the city of Linfen, Shanxi province on January 9, despite efforts by worshippers to halt the demolition and who were then pressured to remain silent, according to witnesses. After the initial explosion, the remaining pieces of the church were broken apart with diggers and jackhammers.

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.

When Yang "Esther" Xue, the daughter of two of the church's pastors, learned of the beatings, she phoned home, but no one answered.

The restrictive policies have given rise to "house" churches, independent places of worship that exist outside official channels. The authorities wanted to delimit the religious building construction in the region.

But authorities have taken a harder line since 2013 against towering crosses and large cathedrals.

But the surging popularity of non-state-approved churches has raised the ire of authorities, wary of any threats to the officially atheist Communist Party's rigid political and social control.

In an annual report on freedom of religion, the USA 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". The pastor asked his name not be published for fear of retaliation by the authorities.

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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. "This church was built in 2008, there's no reason for them to destroy it now".

Yang Rongli, who has been under government surveillance since her release in 2016, described the demolition to a ChinaAid reporter, saying, " ... the police surrounded the Golden Lampstand Church.

While authorities did not block the church's construction, they later cracked down on it, and the couple and other church leaders were sent to prison.

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

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.

China has 5.7 million Catholics and 23 million Protestants, according to official statistics from 2014.

Officials at the Linfen bureau of religious affairs did not respond to requests for comment. The building was built in 1999 and local authorities did not give a reason for the demolition.

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Chinese authorities blow up Christian church