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02/14/2022 Washington, D.C. — The sight of a megachurch crumbling down in Shanxi province caught the attention of global media in 2018.  Using heavy machinery and dynamite, local authorities demolished the Golden Lampstand Church, where more than 50,000 Christians once worshipped. 

Since 2009, the Golden Lampstand Church, located in Linfen city, has faced persecution from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The church is part of a network of house churches with more than 50,000 members called Sola Fide. Sola Fide is Latin for by faith only, and these churches refuse to affiliate with the CCP-sanctioned Protestant church denomination. 

On Sept. 13, 2009, 400 local police, government officials, and hired thugs descended upon the network’s Fushan campus, demolished its new building, and clashed with hundreds of members of the Linfen church network who rushed to defend their church. Dozens were severely beaten, and more than 30 were hospitalized with critical injuries. 

Ten days later, the Golden Lampstand Church was surrounded by armed police. On Sept. 25, Preacher Yang Rongli and six other leaders were hijacked on their way to Taiyuan to petition their plea. The authorities offered 10 million RMB to purchase the property of Golden Lampstand Church, which Yang rejected.  

“They offered me 10 million and asked me to sign. They said the church was illegal and asked us to demolish the church. […] The ten million-plus fund was money collected from brothers and sisters in Christ (for the construction of the church), and I did not contribute. I asked them to negotiate with those members. If they agree, you pass the fund to them; if not, don’t even negotiate with me. I don’t have the authority to do so,” she said at the time. 

On Oct. 8, Pastor Wang Xiaoguang, the husband of Yang, had his house raided. On Oct. 11, nine coworkers of the church, including Yang, were criminally detained.  

On Nov. 25, Linfen City court found Linfen’s church leaders culpable of “illegally occupying agricultural land” and “assembling crowds to disrupt traffic.” These leaders were sentenced to prison for the following terms: Yang Rongli, seven years; Wang Xiaoguang, three years; Yang Xuan, three-and-a-half years; Cui Jiaxing, five-and-a-half years; Zhang Huamei, four years. Five others were sentenced to “reeducation through labor.” 

As if the punishment of the church was not sufficient, in January 2018, the church building, which cost an estimated $2.6 million USD to construct, was destroyed by dynamite by the CCP, for the local authorities were eyeing the property’s commercial value. Since then, the church congregation has continued to meet outdoors or in private homes and is facing ongoing persecution. 

On Aug. 7, 2021, nine leaders from the church were arrested in a well-prepared and coordinated Public Security operation. Among those detained were Pastor Wang Xiaoguang and his wife Yang Rongli, who had both previously been incarcerated in 2009. Members of other house churches associated with the Golden Lampstand network were also arrested and taken to police stations for interrogation. 

On September 27, the husband-and-wife leaders, along with Li Shuangping, Dong Yongyong, Zhao Guoai, Huo Zhuangping, and Wu Linge were formally arrested. They were accused of “fraud” on December 27 and awaiting trial. 

“Me and my family, along with Christians, we are willing to withstand suffering, for God, for this country, for all the leaders in my city, and for all the Christians out there. I am also willing to sacrifice my life. In sum, whether I live or die, I am always the child of God.” 

Preacher Yang Rongli, in her 2009 appeal to Linfen City 

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This story is part of ICC’s series Shackled to the Podium, a series where we remember those who have suffered or are currently suffering persecution by the Chinese Communist Party on account of their faith. This series will populate daily for the duration of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Click here to read more about the project. 

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Since 1995, ICC has served the global persecuted church through a three-pronged approach of advocacy, awareness, and assistance. ICC exists to bandage the wounds of persecuted Christians and to build the church in the toughest parts of the world.