On Tuesday, officers of the People’s Armed Police, a state paramilitary organization, detonated explosives in the church’s underground sanctuary and destroyed the rest of the building, according to ChinaAid, an American watchdog group that monitors religious freedom in China.
“The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights,” said Bob Fu, the group’s founder.
ChinaAid said that the building was built by the married evangelists Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli with nearly $3 million in contributions from local Christians, but that it had never been registered with the authorities, a legal requirement.
Officially, Chinese citizens are free to practice the religion of their choice, but the government tightly controls spiritual life, and in some cases bans certain groups, like Falun Gong.
On Dec. 27, the authorities also demolished a Catholic church in Shaanxi Province, southwest of Shanxi Province, destroying an altar and confiscating vestments, according to ChinaAid.
More than 60 million Christians live in China, at least half of whom worship in unregistered churches.