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.
The Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen in the northern Shanxi province was destroyed with dynamite and heavy machinery, witnesses and overseas campaign groups said.
Officially, Chinese citizens are free to practice the religion of their choice, but the government tightly controls spiritual life.
UG Christian News has learnt that hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the same church and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009. "Officials often prosecute such choices, however, and some of Golden Lampstand Church's leaders have been imprisoned for one to seven years, simply for serving at their church", ChinaAid said in a statement on January 9.
Officials in China demolished another church on Tuesday, sparking fear that the country may be implementing a crackdown on Christianity. Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace are among the most common.
"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.
The charity explained that a similar demolition of a Catholic church previous year has made Christians worry that "the central government will begin ordering the mass destruction of church buildings nationwide as new religious regulations go into effect next month".
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On Tuesday, officers of the People's Armed Police, a state paramilitary organisation, detonated explosives in the church's underground sanctuary and destroyed the rest of the building, according to ChinaAid, a USA watchdog group that monitors religious freedom in China.
"I think this might be a new pattern against any independent house churches with an existing building or intention to build one", Bob Fu, founder of China Aid told The Guardian.
The church was surrounded by the authorities beginning Sunday, Jan. 7, with its congregation blocked from entering the building and warned by local police to "stay away".
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. He later heard a loud explosion.
The couple had been preaching around Linfen since 1992, establishing congregations in improvised spaces such as factory dormitories and greenhouses.
Pastor A (whose name is concealed for security reason) said that Christian worshippers were hindered by police to reach the church site which was being demolished. Authorities periodically arrest pastors or demolish buildings used by unsanctioned congregations.
The demolition prompted more 100 church members to protest in front of government offices this week.