LINFEN: This undated screen grab shows the remains of the church after its demolition.—AFP
LINFEN: This undated screen grab shows the remains of the church after its demolition.—AFP

BEIJING: Authorities in northern China have demolished a Christian megachurch in a move denounced by a religious rights 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, Shanxi province.

Its demolition began on Tuesday under “a city-wide campaign to remove illegal buildings”, the Global Times newspaper reported, quoting a local government official 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 official 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 official.

A “multitude of military police were mobilised 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 on Saturday.

“It is like Taliban/ISIS 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.

Linfen police and city officials did not answer telephone calls.

Demolition of the church comes as authorities prepare to implement new, stricter regulations on religion which come into force on February 1 as part of a broader effort to put religious practice under the direct supervision of the state.

Beijing has stepped up its crackdown on civil society since President Xi Jinping 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 religion.

In an annual report last year, the US State Department said that in 2016, China “physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups”.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2018

Opinion

Big win, bigger challenges
Updated 19 Sep 2021

Big win, bigger challenges

Pakistan should be smug. It is not. There are a number of likely scenarios that must be the source of its unease.
Power of stays
19 Sep 2021

Power of stays

Great power means no one dare ask you questions.
Local decay
18 Sep 2021

Local decay

The set-up in Sindh exercises total control over LG functions.

Editorial

Talking to the Taliban
Updated 19 Sep 2021

Talking to the Taliban

PRIME Minister Imran Khan has announced that he has started a dialogue with the Taliban for the formation of a...
New Zealand’s departure
Updated 19 Sep 2021

New Zealand’s departure

THERE was chaos and despair when New Zealand decided to call off their tour of Pakistan barely minutes before the...
19 Sep 2021

Crucial polio campaign

THE national vaccination campaign that kicked off in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Friday is being described by experts as...
Blinken’s remarks
Updated 18 Sep 2021

Blinken’s remarks

The US establishment cannot scapegoat Pakistan for two decades of bad policy in Afghanistan.
18 Sep 2021

Worrying survey

THE findings of the Labour Force Survey 2018-19 indicate that some important headline trends have already taken or...
18 Sep 2021

Special needs

THE fact that only 3,653 children with special needs, out of some 300,000 in Sindh, are registered with the...