Chinese Authorities Demolish Church, Beat Protesters

Monday, August 7, 2006

Several hundred believers struck following destruction of ‘illegal’ building.
by Xu Mei

NANJING, August 4 (Compass Direct News) -- International outrage has been spreading after the beating last weekend of hundreds of Christians at the tourist resort of Hangzhou on China’s eastern seaboard.

Hundreds of Chinese police broke up a peaceful demonstration by several thousand house church Christians who were protesting the demolition of an unregistered church building in Dangshan Township, Xiaoshan, a suburb of Hangzhou, on Saturday (July 29).

According to eyewitnesses, police used electric stun batons to beat several hundred believers.

After being forced from its previous location, the church was nearly completely rebuilt on private land owned by a local Christian couple. Sources in both the local government and the church confirmed to the U.S.-based China Aid Association (CAA) that local authorities had repeatedly denied believers’ request to rebuild the church even though they had met all the requirements under the new registration rules.

It is the second time in three years that local authorities have destroyed the church, according to CAA. The organization reported that the government had ordered church leaders to cease rebuilding because officials planned to use the land for other purposes. When government officials, rejecting church leaders’ suggestions for where it might be relocated, ordered that it be rebuilt on an entirely unsuitable location, the pastors doubted their sincerity resumed the building project, according to CAA.

Unlike many cases of persecution of Christians in China that go largely unnoticed overseas, this case has been widely publicized. On Monday (July 31) the BBC reported that up to 500 police broken up a protest by 3,000 Christians. According to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, 20 of the protesters were hurt, four seriously. Five organizers of the protest were arrested.

A local police official told Agence France-Presse that an “incident” had taken place on Saturday and confirmed the church “had to be destroyed” as “an illegal structure, as it did not have the approval of the Religious Affairs Bureau or the government.”

The British Daily Telegraph published a detailed report on Tuesday (August 1) headlined, “Christians Beaten by Chinese Police as Church is Razed.”

The newspaper’s Beijing correspondent confirmed that “hundreds of Chinese police clashed with thousands of ‘underground’ Christians over the demolition of a church which was deemed to be an illegal structure.”

The local Communist newspaper, the Hangzhou Daily, reported on Sunday (July 30) only that that “an illegal building [was] destroyed,” failing to mention that the facility in question was a church.

A Hong Kong-based representative for Amnesty International reportedly said the incident shows that in spite of China’s recent gestures toward freedom of expression, the country’s leaders will use force to crack down on un-sanctioned religion.

“Those arrested, like the thousands of Christians interned across the country who largely go unreported, are forbidden to worship the religion of their choice,” the representative said. “They will receive summary justice by the police and be sentenced to re-education through forced labor or sentenced to prison.”

Last year President Bush visited Beijing and attended worship at one of the capital’s large “Three Self” (government-controlled) churches. He has since met with three prominent house church leaders in Washington, D.C. who shared in detail the continuing persecution suffered by house church Christians.

Copyright 2006 Compass Direct News