ICC Note: More information is pouring in from Christians in China who were part of the effort to stop the Chinese government from demolishing the 4,000 seat Sanjiang Church on Monday. The church was completely destroyed with explosives only a few weeks after a human shield made up of thousands of Christians had initially caused the government to reach a compromise with church leaders. Now, Christians are reporting that Chinese authorities managed to clear out hundreds of protesters before the demolition by arresting leaders of the protest first, while subjecting their families to various forms of official scrutiny. Employing such high pressure tactics is not uncommon for Chinese government officials attempting to silence outspoken Christian leaders.
5/1/2014 China (ChinaAid) – Believers in at Sanjiang Church in coastal China’s Zhejiang reported that the government began clearing the Christians from the church building on Friday, before Monday’s demolition.
On Friday, people from the Yongjia County Religious Affairs Bureau went to the church and told believers to leave, but local Christians said that the authorities were really just trying to gauge the situation. Later Friday evening, unidentified people, presumably government personnel, came into the church and disrupted the members’ gathering.
Believers reported that the group destroyed microphones and other audio equipment and that the church building’s water was shut off.
At 5 p.m. Saturday, church members began sending messages to China Aid’s reporter on assignment in Wenzhou. One said: “Now the situation is becoming chaotic.”
Three hours later, officials began to escort people out of the church. Believers said that two government employees would escort one worshipper out.
“The church was cleared by police. Now everybody is outside the gate. Before this, the authorities tested the waters. Now, the worshippers don’t have leaders [as they have been detained],” one Christian said.
By Sunday morning, church members were sending messages on WeChat, saying that more than 1,000 people, who had been guarding Sanjiang Church for more than a week, had been safely evacuated from the church throughout the night.
“It seems the battle of the defense of Sanjiang Church will come to a conclusion,” “Paul,” a netizen, posted Sunday. “The government didn’t dispatch armed police. Instead, they directly took more than 10 people in charge of the church into custody… Civil servants were warned, and they began to audit [the Church’s] accounts and tax matter in [the Church’s] private business… Last night, several hundred people were guarding the church. However, by early morning, they were almost all driven out.”