Wenzhou, China, is known as the “Jerusalem of the East” because of its large Christian population, a population that had, until recently, enjoyed the Sanjiang Church for worship. A massive structure, Sanjiang Church took over 12 years to build and was a site of pilgrimage for Chinese Catholics.
Last week, however, the Chinese government (which had previously lauded the structure’s architecture) deemed the structure “illegal” and destroyed the entire building, bricking off massive statues to hide them from sight. The government cited bribery on the part of at least 5 officials as the reason for the church’s demolition.
The authorities’ behaviour is reminiscent of the smashing of church property during the Cultural Revolution,” another member of the city’s Catholic community told UCA News’s Chinese-language service.
The removals, news of which emerged Wednesday, took place on Saturday, 48 hours, before government demolition teams razed a Protestant church in the same city.
Wenzhou’s Sanjiang church became a symbol of resistance to the Communist Party’s draconian religious policies in early April.
Thousands of Christians formed a human shield around the place of worship after plans to demolish it were announced, but the building was eventually levelled on Monday evening.
Christians accuse Communist Party leaders in Zhejiang province of attempting to slow their faith’s rapid growth by destroying churches deemed too “conspicuous”.
Chinese officials claim this was not a case of persecution of Christians, but rather an attempt to assess and remove any illegal structures, including “factories and Buddhist temples.” It was also reported that 4 Catholics were beaten when they attempted to stop the church’s demolition following a month-long standoff with the government.