Chinese state destroys Christian megachurch as religious crackdown continues

The Chinese government this week demolished with explosives a Christian megachurch in its northern Shanxi province, prompting Christian fears of heightened persecution under the government's atheistic Communist regime.

Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen, Shanxi was destroyed by the paramilitary People's Armed Police forces on Tuesday, who reportedly used excavators and dynamite to destroy the church, according to ChinaAid.

The 50,000 strong church was originally built with 17 million Yuan (around $2.5 million) of congregation contributions.

It is not Golden Lampstand's first clash with officials. In September 2009, during the building's construction, Christian workers were beaten at the site and and Bibles were seized. Several Lampstand leaders subsequently received significant prison sentences, charged with illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order by assembling, according to Associated Press.

ReutersA Chinese Christian prays at his home in a village in Shanxi province after Chinese authorities forcibly closed down so-called house churches, according to Christian group China Aid.

'The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights,' said ChinaAid president Bob Fu.

'ChinaAid calls on the international 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.'

According to the state-run Global Times newspaper, the church building was demolished because it lacked the necessary permits and had violated building violations. The Chinese constitution technically guarantees freedom of religion, but non-state registered religious groups such as Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and evangelical Christians (the latter frequently meeting in 'underground' house churches) are a frequent government target.

ChinaAid has previously described Chinese Christian persecution taking place 'at a frequency unseen since the Cultural Revolution', with other persecution charities warning of the atheist government's overreach. This week's destruction, alongside the demolition of a Catholic church last year, is heightening fears of continued oppression, with the state set to announce new, more stringent regulations on religion next month.