A church in a North China city is being demolished amid a city-wide campaign to remove illegal buildings, a local government official said Wednesday.
“A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association and they secretly built a church using the cover of building a warehouse,” a government department official from the Shanxi Province city of Linfen told the Global Times on Wednesday. He insisted on anonymity.
“The local housing department stopped the building of the church, named Jindengtai Christian Church, in 2009, when the church was almost finished, as the land owner did not apply for the necessary approval,” he said. The church was rarely used, the official said.
The demolition started Tuesday and continued on Wednesday. The church was built by the Jindengtai Christian association, witnesses told the Global Times.
The founder of the association never registered the church, the Linfen official said.
Religious groups above county-level must register churches with their local civil affairs bureaus, according to a regulation on the registration of religious groups in China.
An employee of Linfen Christian Church told the Global Times she had never heard of the Jindengtai Christian association.
Eight members from the Jindengtai Christian association were jailed in 2009 for “illegally occupying farmland” and “disturbing traffic order by getting together,” said a Christian close to the head of the Jindengtai Christian association on Wednesday.
The Linfen official confirmed five people were jailed for disturbing public order.
Members of the Jindengtai Christian association assembled in front of the Fushan county government building gates in Linfen in September 2009, calling on the government to “repent” for shutting down one of their gathering places, he said.
The head of the association did not answer calls from the Global Times as of press time.