ucanews.com reporters, BangkokUpdated: January 11, 2018 09:11 AM GMT
This screen grab shows footage of the demolition of the Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen city in northern Shanxi Province on Jan. 9. (Photo supplied)
Authorities in China demolished a large church in the city of Linfen, Shanxi province on Jan. 9, despite efforts by worshippers to halt the demolition and who were then pressured to remain silent, according to witnesses.
It was the third Christian church demolition or closure in China in just over two weeks and comes amid a broader crackdown on "Western" religions by the government of authoritarian leader Xi Jinping. Muslims groups, especially in the far flung province of Xinjiang have also been targeted.
Officials surrounded the Golden Lampstand Church, while bulldozers reduced the large building to rubble, a witness told Radio Free Asia
“It has now been demolished,” a church member said.
The church member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a large anti-riot team carried out the demolition.
ChinaAid, a Texas-based Christian human rights organization, said the Golden Lampstand Church had been subject to government pressure since it was built in 2009.
“China repeatedly cracks down on house churches, which are churches that refuse to register, often to opt out of government monitoring. 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 Jan.9.
In Zhejiang province more than 1,500 churches, both Catholic and Protestant, have been targeted for demolition or cross removals in recent years, sources have said in a campaign against churches not coming under state control. Chinese authorities are increasingly using property regulations to remove crosses and demolish churches.
On Dec. 27 a Catholic church in Zhifang village of Lauyu district of Xian city in neighboring Shaanxi province was pulled down after authorities claimed it was occupying land illegally. A Protestant church in northwest China’s Xinjiang region was also shut down around the same time
Freedom of worship was harshly restricted last year in China, where authorities “physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups,” the U.S. State Department said in an annual report released in August.