A nearly completed Christian church building in Xiaoshan district has been demolished by government contractors and about 60 Christian leaders imprisoned as China continues to battle unregulated Christianity.
China Aid Association, a Texas-based organization set up to develop and preserve religious freedom in China, said yesterday the demolition of the Dangshan city church building happened July 29.
Destruction of Chinese church (China Aid Association)
On that day, about five dozen Christian leaders, some of whom now have disappeared, were taken into custody. And yesterday, China Aid said three more leaders were jailed.
The three latest Christian community leaders jailed were identified as Ni Huiming, 45; Shen Zhuke, 52; and Shen Jian, 48. China Aid officials say they, like the people arrested earlier, largely are held incommunicado, and their locations and conditions are unknown.
One other woman, Wang Aizhen, of Kanshan town, remained hospitalized with broken chest bones after being beaten by riot police during the July 29 church demolition, China Aid said.
The action is out of the ordinary, even for a government that maintains a constant crackdown on house churches like this one, or those that are not formally acknowledged by the government, officials said.
“It was very unusual to use excessive force to destroy an almost-finished church building,” Bob Fu, a spokesman for China Aid, told WorldNetDaily yesterday.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government agency, noted in its 2006 report that “every religious community in China is subject to serious restrictions, state control, and repression.”
“We were informed that some brothers and sisters were seriously injured when they were caught, and some have lost contact with their family members who do not know where to send money or clothing to help them,” China Aid said. “The lives of some Christians might be in danger.”
The original church building, built in 1921 on a 10,000-square-foot parcel, was occupied starting with the 1949 “liberation” by the communist government. The local Christians then worshipped in a 200-year-old building for a time, and in recent years had been reconstructing a worship center on the original site. Then government officials, four excavators and hundreds of military policemen arrived and destroyed the structure.
Of the 60 Christians arrested, about 50 remain in custody, without any formal charges being filed, China Aid said.
“What has worried us most is that some Christians disappeared after the conflict,” China Aid said. “Some are young students that can not be found in either the detention or custody centers. According to reliable sources, some may have been beaten to death.”
In China, only churches that have registered with the state and meet the government’s requirements are allowed to meet, have property or buildings. The government also decides who can register.
While China Aid monitors the China situation on its Monitor China site, the USCIRF lists China as a country of “particular concern” because of the government’s behavior towards religious groups.
In its 260-page report on international religious persecution, agency members noted that during their first-ever visit to China to discuss those issues, when a Catholic bishop with the state-affiliated Catholic church began discussing the arrest of a bishop from the unregistered Catholic church, the interview was immediately ended.