Government Authorities Demolish One of China’s Largest Evangelical Churches
Demolition Comes as Part of Wider Crackdown on Unregistered Churches
01/18/2018 Washington D.C. – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Golden Lampstand Church, one of China’s largest evangelical churches, was demolished by Chinese authorities last week as a part of a new government crackdown on unregistered churches. Authorities used heavy machinery and dynamite to demolish the church in what many observers consider an excuse from the government to regulate spiritual life in China.
The Chinese government stated that the Golden Lampstand Church, which serves at least 50,000 congregants, did not have the proper permits and was operating illegally. As a result, the church was destroyed last Tuesday, January 9, as many church members witnessed the sad event.
According to CBN News, this is not the first time the government has harassed the Golden Lampstand Church. In 2009, a year after the church was built, 400 police officers and other officials attacked the church, harassing church members, defacing the building, seizing Bibles, and arresting the pastor, the pastor’s family, and other church leaders. The pastor and others arrested were later charged with occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order by gathering together at the church.
Last month, a Catholic church in the Shaanxi province was also demolished by the government on the same grounds of illegal operation.
“China repeatedly cracks down on house churches, which are churches that refuse to register, often to opt out of government monitoring,” ChinaAid told Radio Free Asia. “Officials often prosecute such choices, however, and some of Golden Lampstand Church’s leaders have been imprisoned for one to seven years, simply for serving at their church.”
Christians in China have experienced severe hostility from the government under President Xi Jinping, who last year promised to monitor religious activity closely, except for Buddhism. This promise is being fulfilled by demanding that Christians replace images of Christ with images of the communist president, prohibiting Christians from gathering without previous authorization, and demolishing several unregistered church buildings.
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “It saddens me to see China, a country trying to prove its legitimacy among world leaders, continuing to violate basic human rights. The use of force and menace against innocent believers is barbaric and contradicts the rule of law which President Xi Jinping has been promoting. China will never be looked up to unless it learns to respect its own citizens and their freedoms. This includes the freedom to follow the religion of their choice without harassment from the government.”