Chinese state destroys Christian megachurch as religious crackdown continues

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The Chinese regime's persecution of Christianity reached new heights as military police demolished a church in northern China's Shanxi Province.

This screen grab shows footage of the demolition of the Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen city in northern Shanxi Province on January 9.

Pictures released by the US-based religious campaign group ChinaAid showed the church's steeple and cross toppled on the floor around a pile of rubble.

The order to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen apparently came from China's top officials instead of the less-powerful local authorities, according to the Christian organization China Aid.

"My heart was sad to see this demolition and now I worry about more churches being demolished, even my own", he said.

"It also could be a prelude to enforcing the new regulation on religious affairs that will take effect in February", he added.

According to the state-run Global Times newspaper, the church building was demolished because it lacked the necessary permits and had violated building violations.

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There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China, many of whom worship in independent congregations like the Golden Lampstand.

The church has been embroiled in a long-running battle with the local government and several of its leaders where imprisoned in 2009 during a previous crackdown.

"It has now been demolished", a church member said.

Evangelist Yang Xuan, the founder of the church, spent 3.5 years in prison and Yang Caizhen, his wife, was sentenced to two years in a re-education labor camp and beaten while incarcerated.

The church was surrounded by the authorities beginning Sunday, Jan. 7, with its congregation blocked from entering the building and warned by local police to "stay away". Patrol wagons guarded the church.

Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen, Shanxi was once a 17 million Yuan ($2,603,380.00 USD) unregistered church, paid for completely by the Christians who attended it. "At this point, excavators are digging into the church, but we are not allowed to enter or watch", she said.

He added: "ChinaAid calls on the worldwide community to openly condemn the bombing of this church building and urge the Chinese government to fairly compensate the Christians who paid for it and immediately cease these alarming demolitions of churches". In late December, local officials tore down a Catholic church that was built in 1999 in a small village in Shaanxi without giving a reason for the demolition.