Authorities with the atheistic Communist Party in China demolished a well-known Christian mega-church this week.
Witnesses say paramilitary People’s Armed Police forces used excavators and dynamite on Tuesday to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen in Shanxi province.
Three church caretakers who were inside the church – Gao Rongli, Zhang Siling and Li Xiangmei – had their cellphones confiscated and destroyed before they were driven out of the building.
ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building, which was built with nearly $3 million in contributions from local worshippers.
The church was located in one of Northern China’s poorest regions.
The church, with a congregation of more than 50,000, has long clashed with the government.
Hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the church and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009 that ended with church leaders receiving long prison sentences.
“The disproportionate manpower used to demolish this church goes to show that China is fearful of Christians,” Gina Goh, regional manager at International Christian Concerns, said. “The government knew that the demolition in the name of urban zoning would be met with resistance, so it ensured success by taking extreme measures.”
It is not uncommon for the Chinese government to demolish churches for urban zoning or commercial purposes.
Currently, there are an estimated 60 million Christians in China.
“Despite their best efforts to intimidate the Church with actions like this, the government cannot destroy the faith and resilience of Chinese Christians,” said Goh.