Sanjiang Church Demolished

Sanjiang Church Demolition

Despite an agreement to dismantle only part of its annex, local officials proceeded with a full-scale demolition of a church in Sanjiang, near Wenzhou in Zhejiang province.

The conflict started when the local government said the construction of the church, which took years and millions of dollars to build but occupied five times more space than permitted, was illegal and posed safety risks.  Many believed, however, the real reason for the government’s action against the church was the prominence of crosses on the building.  Showing solidarity, thousands of Chinese Christians gathered at the church to form a human shield to prevent demolition crews from getting near the church.  On April 7, the two sides had come to an agreement to remove two floors from the annex to make the “cross lower and ‘less visible” and to leave the main structure intact.

However, demolition crews showed up with heavy police guard, and roads leading to the church were closed.  It is reported that the demolition crews stripped four floors, rather than the agreed two, from the annex.  It’s unclear whether the collapse of the entire building was deliberate or whether it happened because the removal of the annex compromised the structure.  The Zhejiang Daily defended the government’s action citing the illegal construction,  obstruction by illegal gathering of people.

A coordinator for Open Doors International, a global charity that assists persecuted Christians said What became clear very soon, was that both the government and the church are not handling this case very well.  This led to the local government losing even more face…The most likely reason is that local officials are afraid of being seen as weak.”

According to the New York Times, two smaller churches in Zhejiang were also razed and ten other churches have been ordered to remove crosses from the outsides of their buildings, leading some to believe a coordinated campaign against Christianity which is predicted to grow in China.  The government, however, disputes this accusation, maintaining that it’s an effort against illegal structures and assuring people of religious tolerance: “There are many Christians and we give a lot of respect to freedom of religion.”

 

 

 

 


Image: The Telegraph