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14 January 2018, 03:17 | Erica Roy
Believers take part in a weekend mass at an underground Catholic church in Tianjin
The huge evangelical Jindengtai ("Golden Lampstand") Church, painted grey and surmounted by turrets and a large red cross, was located in Linfen, Shanxi province.
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.
ChinaAid, a USA -based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building, which was built with almost $3 million in contributions from local worshippers in one of China's poorest regions. "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. These regulations grant the Chinese Communist Party increased power over religion, paving the way for escalated persecution.
Authorities in China's inland province of Shanxi have blown up a Christian church, saying it was illegally constructed. Millions of Christians, Buddhists and Muslims also worship in state-sanctioned assemblies. This indicates that the order to destroy the church came from China's top officials instead of the less-powerful local authorities. "ChinaAid calls on the worldwide community to openly condemn the bombing of this church building and urge the Chinese government to fairly compensate the Christians who paid for it and immediately cease these alarming demolitions of churches".
According to the state-run Global Times newspaper, the church building was demolished because it lacked the necessary permits and had violated building violations.
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.
A "multitude of military police were mobilized and engaged (in) the destruction by burying a large amount of explosives under the church", Bob Fu, president of the US-based religious rights group ChinaAid Association, said.
The charity said this is not the first time the church has faced persecution.
He later heard, but did not witness, a loud explosion, the pastor said.
The demolition prompted more 100 church members to protest in front of government offices this week.
The Guardian reports that a Catholic church in the neighboring province of Shaanxi was also demolished in a similar fashion last month, which is stoking fears among Christians that the widespread crackdown on churches continues in full force.
Yang Rongli, who has been under government surveillance since her release in 2016, described the demolition Tuesday to a China Aid reporter.
While authorities did not block the church's construction, they later cracked down on it, and the couple and other church leaders were sent to prison.
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