Chinese authorities demolished the $2.6 million building of a 50,000-member evangelical congregation in the country’s northern Shanxi province.
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.
The group explained that the communist country’s notorious military police, which carried out the demolition Jan. 9, has been under the direct control of the central government since the head of the public security bureau was arrested last year.
It’s the second large church building to be demolished in the province in the past month.
People’s Armed Police forces used excavators and dynamite to destroy the building in Linfen, which had been financed by the congregation.
The church is among the nation’s unregistered congregations, meaning it is not within the government-controlled system and therefore is deemed illegal by the communist regime.
China guarantees “freedom of religion” in its law but not in practice, as authorities use technicalities such land or building violations to destroy churches. The state-run Global Times newspaper cited an unidentified local official claiming the church did not hold the necessary permits.
“The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights,” said China Aid’s president and founder, Bob Fu.
An official at the local religious affairs bureau denied the demolition took place, the Voice of America reported.
China Aid noted that on Sept. 13, 2009, when the building was under construction, church members who slept at the site to guard it were awakened by 400 officials who beat them and razed the building. Thirty of the members were in critical condition.
State media at the time said the church leaders were charged with illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order.
The church’s two pastors were arrested in 2009. Yang Xuan spent three-and-a-half years in prison and Yang Rongli was imprisoned for seven years.
Yang Rongli, who has been under government surveillance since her release in 2016, described the demolition Tuesday to a China Aid reporter.
“The police surrounded the Golden Lampstand Church. Patrol wagons guarded the church. Workers smashed the church’s glass,” she said. “At this point, excavators are digging into the church, but we are not allowed to enter or watch. The village head and the police from the local police station warned all the believers against entering the church. Now, we really have no idea what is going to happen.”
As WND reported this week, China is No. 43 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. The neighboring communist regime of North Korea is No. 1.