|Christians from all around Wenzhou stand
guard in front of the church. The cross causing
the conflict can be seen atop the church.
(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid Association
(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—April 4, 2014) A Three-Self Patriotic Movement church in China’s coastal Zhejiang province is facing demolition after refusing to remove the cross that tops the building.
“When the Party secretary Xia Baolong visited the local areas, he found the cross on top of the church very conspicuous. So he ordered that it be demolished. Then, the officials from Yongjia county demanded that the church tear down the cross and the top floor of the church,” Zheng Leguo, a young leader at Sanijang Church in Wenzhou, said.
However, believers said that the demolition order met objections from the church. China Aid previously reported that other churches in Zhejiang had crosses forcibly removed from their buildings (see https://chinaaid.org/2014/03/three-self-churches-in-zhejiang-anhui.html and https://chinaaid.org/2014/03/update-zhejiang-churches-face.html).
“The church said there are many people who are protecting it. However, the government has dispatched many people and organized them to get ready for the forced demolition. They even said they would use dynamite to blow the church up,” Yang Xingquan, a lawyer keeping up with the case, said.
When believers heard that the government threatened to blow the church up on Wednesday, large groups began gathering in order to protect the church.
|Taken from an upper level of Sanjiang Church, this photo
shows the crowd of believers gathered at the church to
guard it. (Photo: China Aid)
“The believers don’t know where they can rebuild the church. That’s why more than 100 brothers and sisters guard the church every night,” a local said.
To handle the growing crowds, local authorities dispatched SWAT teams. “Four or five people came to visit the scene. We were afraid that there were too few of us to resist an attack by the SWAT team. That’s why we take turns guarding the church at night,” one believer told China Aid. “Basically, there are 100 people per shift. On Wednesday, they came to check on us at 4 a.m. When [authorities] saw we were guarding the place, they went away.”
“They guard the church day and night. They brought cotton comforters and food [while they] guard the church. Many believers from nearby churches have gathered here,” Zheng said.
Some believers said that as many as 5,000 Christians from the Wenzhou area, including the many members of Sanjiang Church, arrived to help protect the church on Thursday. In response, authorities reportedly dispatched around 1,000 officers to the church. At this time, there was been no report of any substantial incidents occurring after officers arrived at the church.
The Chinese word “to be demolished” is spray-painted on
the church. (Photo: China Aid)
Later on Thursday, the Sanjiang Neighborhood Office of Yongjia County issued a notice condemning the church building. “As this structure is illegal and poses serious safety issues, we hereby demand, for the safety of the people and pursuant to the relevant laws and regulations of China, that Sanjiang Christian Church organize, in a timely manner, an evacuation,” the notice read.
Church members said that the 1,000 officers remained on site after the notice was issued, presumably to begin demolition should the Christians evacuate the building.
According to Yang, the church is home to “several” thousand believers. The church cost believers approximately 30 million yuan (US$4.8 million) to build.
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Contact
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