- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 6, 2014

Thousands of Christians have created a round-the-clock human shield to protect a church in eastern China after Communist Party officials announced plans to bulldoze it.

Thousands flocked to the Sanjiang church in Wenzhou after a demolition notice plastered onto the new church said the place of worship was built illegally, The Telegraph reported.

“There are bad people out there trying to damage our church so we must defend it,” said Li Jingliu, a 56-year-old former factory worker who has occupied one the church’s offices since Wednesday.

Parishioners blamed Xia Baolong, the provincial Party chief, for the crackdown after he visited the region recently.

“His behavior is illegal. He has abused his power. The construction of the church is not against the law,” 47-year-old Wang Jianfeng told The Telegraph.

The Sanjiang church is part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, China’s officially sanctioned and government-controlled Protestant church.

He Hongying, an 81-year-old member of the resistance, told the paper that she would stay as long as necessary.

“I slept here last night and I will do the same again tonight. We pulled two pews together so it was quite all right. We feel at peace and fearless when we are with our God.”

The dispute signals the ongoing struggle Christians face in China, whose Communist Party is officially atheist. There were only about 1 million Christians in the country when the party took over in 1949. Today, there are thought to be more Chinese Christians than Communist Party members, with up to 100 million mainland believers, The Telegraph said.

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