China govt destroys mega-church with dynamite, silences congregants

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Authorities in northern China have demolished another church, sparking fears that the officially atheist Communist Party may be enforcing a campaign against Christianity.

This screen grab shows footage of the demolition of the Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen city in northern Shanxi Province on January 9.

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 almost $3 million in contributions from local worshippers in one of China's poorest regions.

The government revised laws regulating religious groups past year 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".

During the church's construction in 2009, 400 police and other officials attacked church members, defaced the building, and seized Bibles.

"It has now been demolished", a church member said.

Freedom of worship was harshly restricted past 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. "The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights".

Evangelist Yang's daughter described the recent explosion and demolition.

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Lampstand's head Pastor, Yang Rongli, had previously spent seven years in prison on charges of assembling a large crowd to disturb traffic order, and has been under police surveillance since his release in October 2016. Patrol wagons guarded the church.

The church's two pastors were arrested in 2009.

The Golden Lampstand was the second church to be demolished in China in less than a month. Workers smashed the church's glass.

She told a ChinaAid reporter: "The police surrounded the Golden Lampstand Church".

The state-run Global Times newspaper reported the official reason for the demolition was the building did not hold the necessary permits. "At this point, excavators are digging into the church, but we are not allowed to enter or watch". "This church was built in 2008, there's no reason for them to destroy it now".

"The repeated persecution of the Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights", said Bob Fu, the founder and president of ChinaAid, who called for the worldwide community to openly condemn the bombing of the church.

ChinaAid President and Founder Bob Fu has urged the government to stop demolishing churches and to compensate the Christians who paid for the building.

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