People's Armed Police forces used excavators and dynamite to destroy the building in Linfen, which had been financed by the congregation. "Officials often prosecute such choices, however, and some of Golden Lampstand Church's leaders have been imprisoned for one to seven years, simply for serving at their church", ChinaAid said in a statement on January 9.
China has been targeting unregistered churches such as Golden Lampstand.
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. In 2009, hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed it up, seizing Bibles in a crackdown that ended with its leaders receiving long jail terms.
An annual report of United States department conducted on religion freedom noted that registered and non registered religious practitioners are physically punished by the government of China. Millions of Christians, Buddhists and Muslims also worship in state-sanctioned assemblies.
Freedom of worship was harshly restricted previous year in China, where authorities "physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups", the U.S. State Department said in an annual report released in August. Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace are among the most common.
A local resident rides a bicycle past a church in Xiaoshan, a commercial suburb of Hangzhou, the capital of China's east Zhejiang province December 21, 2006.
Pictures released by the US-based religious campaign group ChinaAid showed the church's steeple and cross toppled on the floor around a pile of rubble. Churches that refuse to register do so in order to opt out of government monitoring.
Founder of China Aid Bob Fu said that he perceived the government strategy behind pulverizing church buildings is to stop people from constructing more churches in China or it might be preliminary for implementing new religious laws next month.
A pastor at a nearby church arrived after the blast at the Golden Lampstand church and watched construction crews break apart the remains of the building. He later heard a loud explosion.
"My heart was sad to see this demolition and now I worry about more churches being demolished, even my own", he said.
When asked if the congregants were beaten by the police, the church member said they had not.
The couple had been preaching around Linfen since 1992, establishing congregations in improvised spaces such as factory dormitories and greenhouses. "This church was built in 2008, there's no reason for them to destroy it now", he said. Many members of the church, though, witnessed the demolition from a distance and wept for their church's destruction.