Chinese authorities called in the military to tear down a towering church located near a Christian community by the city of Wenzhou.
All that was left Wednesday of Sanjiang Church, which had towered above the village of Pudong, were pieces of concrete slabs, Newsmax reported.
The nearby community, locally known as China's Jerusalem, features a heavy Christian population and focuses on capitalistic ventures. In the village of Pudong, homeowners were open about their Christianity, marking their dwellings with red crosses and even Bible verses, Newsmax reported. The church, meanwhile, boasted hundreds of congregants.
"We are crying inside, there is nothing more to say," one church-goer told Agence France-Presse. And another: "It's gone now."
The ruling Communist Party normally takes a hard line with churches, believing that those who gather to worship present threats to the government. But Sanjiang Church had been registered with government entities and, therefore, allowed to exist.
Communist officials suddenly decided it was an illegal building, however, and sent out security forces this week to tear it down. Sanjiang wasn't the only target; the government also ordered four other churches in Wenzhou to be destroyed or to undergo structural reforms that included the removal of Christian crosses, Newsmax said.
"I suspect it is a well-orchestrated campaign in order to contain the rapid growth of Christianity," said Bob Fu, the president of China Aid Association, a U.S.-based religious rights group, in Newsmax. "The deliberate wounds will take years to heal and the remaining little trust between the Chinese government and Chinese religious communities is gone."
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