The Government of the People's Republic of China has used dynamites and heavy machinery to demolish a mega evangelical church 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 Christian faith.
On Sunday, police cordoned off the area around the Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen, before detonating the explosives that were placed inside.
A church in northern China's coal country that once served as the worship center for more than 50,000 congregants is no longer standing.
In an earlier crackdown in 2009, squads of the Chinese regime's security goons descended on the church to smash the building and seize bibles from its members, according to ChinaAid.
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The order to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen apparently came from China's top officials instead of the less-powerful local authorities, according to the Christian organization China Aid.
When Yang "Esther" Xue, the daughter of two of the church's pastors, learned of the beatings, she phoned home, but no one answered.
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.
Several of the church's leaders, including the pastors and their relatives, were arrested.
"A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association and they secretly built a church using the cover of building a warehouse", a government department official was quoted as saying.
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Many members of the church, though, witnessed the demolition from a distance and wept for their church's destruction.
The church had faced "repeated persecution" by the Chinese government, said ChinaAid.
It is not Golden Lampstand's first clash with officials. In 2009, leaders of the church were sentenced to prison on such charges as obstructing traffic. Patrol wagons guarded the church. "Now, we really have no idea what is going to happen", Yang Rongli told a ChinaAid reporter. At this point, excavators are digging into the church, but we are not allowed to enter or watch.
The church was completely paid for by the Christians who attended it, but has been under the control of the Chinese government since past year. The village head and the police from the local police station warned all the believers against entering the church.
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