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Chinese Christians are experiencing the worst government crackdown in a decade, a leading activist said after demolition teams began tearing down a 4,000-seat Protestant cathedral in the south-eastern city of Wenzhou, a heartland of Christianity in China.
Witnesses said that on Monday bulldozers and explosives were used to demolish parts of the newly built Sanjiang Church in Zhejiang Province, which had one of the largest congregations in China.
Government officials claimed the church violated building codes because it was too large and its cross was too high.
When its demolition was first announced in April, congregation members formed a human shield around the building but withdrew when a compromise appeared to have been negotiated with local officials.
Bob Fu, a Chinese pastor who heads the US-based China Aid Assocation, told The Tablet that six church buildings have been demolished this year, with more forced to remove their crosses or modify their buildings.
“Christians feel extremely disappointed and saddened,” he said. “They cannot believe how they could be treated with such animosity by the Government when they are the main forces for justice and mercy for the needy and vulnerable.”