A huge church purportedly built with nearly £2 million raised from local worshippers in one of China's poorest regions has been demolished by authorities, the latest flashpoint between religious groups and the officially atheist Communist Party.
China Aid said in an update Wednesday that Chinese military police detonated explosives inside Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen, destroying the $2.6 million house of worship, which was owned by the Christians who worshiped there.
In Zhejiang province more than 1,500 churches, both Catholic and Protestant, have been targeted for demolition or cross removals in recent years, sources have said in a campaign against churches not coming under state control.
Golden Lampstand Church has had a long history of tension with the communist government dating back to when it was built in 2009.
The church member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a large anti-riot team carried out the demolition.
"It also could be a prelude to enforcing the new regulation on religious affairs that will take effect in February", he added.
The Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen, a city of 4.3 million, was one of China's many unregistered "house churches", meaning they are not sanctioned by the Chinese regime and are therefore constantly persecuted. The state-run Global Times newspaper cited an unidentified local official claiming the church did not hold the necessary permits.
The similar demolition of a Catholic church a year ago is prompting Christians to worry that the central government will begin ordering the mass destruction of church buildings nationwide as new religious regulations go into effect next month.
Yang was previously jailed for seven years on charges of "assembling a crowd to disturb traffic order" and has been put under police surveillance since she was released in October 2016.
While authorities did not block the church's construction, they later cracked down on it, and the couple and other church leaders were sent to prison.
The Golden Lampstand Church was built by husband and wife evangelists Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli as a permanent home for their followers. Patrol wagons guarded the church.
'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'. "At this point, excavators are digging into the church, but we are not allowed to enter or watch", she said.