Updated: Zhejiang church faces demolition threat

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A translation of the demolition notice
sent to Xialing Christian Church is 
available upon request.
(Photo: China Aid)
China Aid
Translated by Brynne Lawrence. Written and edited in English by Ava Collins.

Updated at 8:42 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2015

(Wenzhou, Zhejiang—Nov. 20, 2015) On Nov. 11, authorities in China’s coastal Zhejiang issued a demolition notice to a government-sanctioned Three-Self church, announcing the impending destruction of the church on Nov. 16.

Xialing Christian Church, located in the Lucheng District of Wenzhou, has faced demolition threats for more than a year. On numerous occasions, church members have gathered at the church to protect the building and its cross. On Oct. 9, 2014, authorities successfully destroyed the church’s outer wall after church members prevented them from reaching the cross atop the building. Two months later, on Dec. 2, the church was issued an ultimatum to either disband or be demolished.

In response, Xialing Christian Church hired a team of human rights lawyers, including Zhang Kai, who, through a lawsuit, were able to temporarily halt the demolition. The success of Xialing’s case helped Zhang gain distinction over the next year and by August 2015, he was representing nearly 100 other churches in the area.

An undated photo of Xialing Christian Church,
with debris from the demolished wall visible
on the steps. (Photo: WeChat)
Zhang and some of his assistants were living in Xialing Christian Church when authorities climbed the church walls and detained them just before midnight on Aug. 25. Zhang has since been accused of crimes that threaten national security and was extra-judicially sentenced to a six-month detention in a “black jail,” which takes place in an undisclosed location. Chinese prisoners are often tortured in black jails, which are officially termed “residential surveillance in a designated location.” Zhang’s own lawyers have been unable meet with him or learn of his location.

The notice issued to Xialing Christian Church on Nov. 11 stated that the church violated construction regulations and failed to carry out the demolition themselves before a prescribed deadline. The notice warned that officials would carry out the demolition on Nov. 16, which “no group or individual [should] thwart.”

“Right after their notice was sent out, I thought it was the same as before—threatening to strike the east to the west [Editor’s Note: This Chinese idiom means to create a disturbance.]. If they really mean to demolish [the church], they would make use of a time when [church members] are unprepared instead of saying when they’ll come to demolish it,” one Xialing Church member told China Aid. The Christian also said that church members have been guarding the church from the threatened demolition.

At this time, China Aid has not received information indicating that the church has been demolished.

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