China church demolition sparks fears of campaign against Christians

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Authorities in northern China's coal country this week demolished a well-known Christian mega-church, underscoring long-standing tensions between religious groups and the officially atheistic Communist Party.

On Sunday, police sealed the Golden Lampstand church in Linfen before vandalizing it, witnessed the head priest.

Chinese authorities detonated explosives in an underground worship hall earlier this week, ChinaAid, a US -based Christian advocacy group, reports.

The government revised laws regulating religious groups a year ago for the first time since 2005, increasing control over a places of worship from limiting the construction of statutes outside churches to imposing fines of up to 300,000 yuan (£34,000) for holding "unauthorised religious activities".

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.

China Aid noted that on September 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.

In China religion freedom is only limited to papers but in actual life there is religious freedom as the Chinese government demands priests to stick to the laws and churches to be approved by the government.

China Aid, a Texas-based Christian human rights organization, reported that the church has been facing government pressure since it was built 2009.

A local pastor, who asked not to be named, said that he saw "more police than I could count" at the site, preventing worshipers from approaching. The state-run Global Times newspaper cited an unidentified local official claiming the church did not hold the necessary permits.

State media at the time said the church leaders were charged with illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order. Patrol wagons guarded the church.

The Golden Lampstand was an unregistered independent church opened by an evangelist couple who served a congregation of over 50,000 people.

She told a ChinaAid reporter: "The police surrounded the Golden Lampstand Church. At this point, excavators are digging into the church, but we are not allowed to enter or watch", she said.

Christians have protested against church demolitions, with a video captured in Shanxi in August showing a clash between Catholics and government representatives who were using bulldozers to destroy church property.

Founder of China Aid Bob Fu said that he perceived the government strategy behind pulverizing church buildings is to stop people from constructing more churches in China or it might be preliminary for implementing new religious laws next month. That church was demolished only 20 years of its construction without any reason.

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