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China demolishes Christian megachurch

AFP  |  Beijing 

Authorities in northern have demolished a Christian in a move denounced by a group as "Taliban-style persecution". China's officially atheist Communist authorities are wary of any organised movements outside their control, including religious ones. The huge evangelical Jindengtai ("Golden Lampstand") Church, painted grey and surmounted by turrets and a large red cross, was located in Linfen, province. Its demolition began on Tuesday under "a city-wide campaign to remove illegal buildings", newspaper reported, quoting a local who wished to remain anonymous. "A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association and they secretly built a church using the cover of building a warehouse," the said. The local housing department had stopped construction of the church in 2009 when it was almost complete, he added. Several members of the Christian group were then jailed, according to the A "multitude of military police were mobilised and engaged (in) the destruction by burying a large amount of explosives under the church," Bob Fu, of the US- based group ChinaAid Association, told AFP today. "It is like Taliban/style of persecution against a peaceful church," he said, adding that it had around 50,000 members. The house of worship was "primarily destroyed because it refused to register" with the Communist authorities, Fu said. and city officials did not answer telephone calls by AFP. Demolition of the church comes as authorities prepare to implement new, stricter regulations on which come into force on February 1 as part of a broader effort to put religious practice under the direct supervision of the state. has stepped up its crackdown on since took power in 2012, tightening restrictions on freedom of speech and jailing hundreds of activists and lawyers. Chinese citizens officially have freedom of belief under the constitution but the authorities tightly control religious groups and churches, which have to swear allegiance to state- controlled "patriotic" associations to avoid any foreign influence through In an annual report last year, the said that in 2016, "physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups". has 5.7 million Catholics and 23 million Protestants, according to statistics from 2014. But the figures exclude a similar number of Catholics who adhere to the unofficial "underground" church loyal to the Vatican and tens of millions of members of unrecognised churches, mainly Protestant. Unofficial Christian organisations are generally tolerated if their members remain discreet. Authorities however routinely crack down on construction of unauthorised places of worship and dozens of churches have been demolished in recent years.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, January 13 2018. 15:15 IST
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