This week, Chinese authorities demolished at least two Christian churches, one of which was a mega church in the city of Linfen in Shaanxi province, one of the poorest regions in the country.
The church, which has an attendance of 50,000 people, was attacked by the People’s Armed Police, which used dynamite and excavators to raze the church to the ground, according to ChinaAid, a U.S.-based Christian advocacy group.
The Golden Lampstand Church, deemed a mega church, was built by husband and wife evangelists Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli.
The couple recruited informal congregations around Linfen since 1992 in places like factory dormitories. The mega church was built later with nearly $2.6 million. The construction was funded by the residents of Shaanxi province.
This is not the first time that this church was being targeted by the authoritarian regime. In 2009, members of the police force and armed thugs charged on the church, seizing copies of the Bible, and arresting church leaders.
The church leaders were sentenced to up to seven years for illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order. This time too, the authoritarian regime used similar charges to legitimize its crackdown of the church.
According to the state-run Global Times, the church didn't have the required construction permits. Apparently, a local Christian had donated his farmland to the evangelical couple, who built the church under the guise of building a warehouse.
However, the church invoked the wrath of the state not because of inadequate permits, but because it provoked the deep anxiety the Chinese government feels toward religion. The officially atheist government is notorious for trying to regulate the spiritual lives of its citizens.
“The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights,” said ChinaAid president and founder Bob Fu.
Religious groups are required to register with the state. In that sense, the church also deprived the state of its ability of surveillance.
Religions allow citizens in China, many of whom are disenchanted workers in China’s industry, to find means of salvation from ways that do not entail devotion of the citizen to the state.
The latest demolition of churches led to more than 100 church members protesting in front of government offices.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Kim Kyung-Hoon