A massive church was razed to the ground this week in Wenzhou, a coastal Chinese city nicknamed the “Jerusalem of the East” for its large Christian population.
According to a story by Zoe Li for CNN, local officials responsible for the demolition say the church was an illegal structure that was four times the permitted structure size. But Christian groups are concerned that the demolition signals an official campaign against religious organizations.
The Sanjiang Church took 12 years and 30 million yuan ($4.7 million) to build, Chinese media reports. Its towering spires were a symbol of worship in a city that is fifteen percent Christian.
CNN said the church’s Monday demolition was preceded by a month-long standoff between supporters of the church and local authorities, with supporters occupying the church to protest its destruction.
The church was originally a government-approved project under the official “Three-Self Patriotic Movement,” a state-sanctioned Protestant church. Last September it was even praised by the local government as a model engineering project.
However, the official rhetoric has now changed completely.
Jin Leibo, a spokesperson from the propaganda department of Yongjia County, where Sanjiang Church was located, told CNN that the church was destroyed as it was “illegal.”
“The building area should be within 1,881 square meters, but they built 7,928 square meters illegally,” Jin said.
The church was asked to “self-rectify” by April 22, but workers only managed to tear down 500 square meters by deadline, according to officials.
By Monday evening the church had been flattened by bulldozers.
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SOURCE: ASSIST News Service