Thousands of Christians gathered outside of a church in Zhejiang last year to protest its demolition.
Authorities in Wenling, Zhejiang province are targeting over a dozen churches that are to be partially or completely demolished before September 1 as part of a campaign to “beautify” the city and take down unsafe structures.
According to the Global Times:
A total of 15 churches were told to demolish their “illegal structures” or vacate those buildings within 15 days, according to a notice published by the Bureau of Land Resources in the Wenling Daily on August 15.
Authorities said some churches will have to be completely demolished, including a four-story church in Baishanjie village, Wenling.
For some other churches, only portions of the buildings, such as dormitories and warehouses, will have to be torn down.
Authorities added they had previously ordered illegal structures at those churches demolished, but the churches have failed to comply.
The order comes amid a sweeping “three revise and one demolition” campaign in Zhejiang, home to two million Christians, that aims at “building a more beautiful” province. That movement has seen a number of churches brought down and over 1,200 crosses dismantled, prompting protest among churchgoers across the country who claim that the bulldozing is an attempt by the government to curb the spread of Christianity in China.
Last week, Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong issued an “urgent appeal” to the central government urging authorities to put an end to the “clean-up” campaign, but seemingly with little effect.
In March, a Protestant preacher who spoke out against the demolitions was sentenced to a year in jail for “gathering crowds to disturb social order” in a trial which his supporters claimed had been “manipulated”.