Chinese authorities recently destroyed a church under construction in China’s central Henan province before beating and arresting its parishioners, according to ChinaAid, a U.S.-based nonprofit Christian human rights organization.
The horrific persecution comes as China is said to have ramped up a campaign against organized religion, which it views as a threat. Reports have circulated of Christians being prohibited from doing basic things such as singing hymns, attending church services, and even praying. Crosses have also been removed from buildings.
ChinaAid said it recently learned of the incident from witnesses who likened the scene to the Japanese invasion of China during World War II.
Witnesses told ChinaAid that hundreds of police officers and local government officials arrived at Shuangmiao Christian Church in the city of Shangqui on the morning of May 5. The authorities demolished the church, which was under construction, leaving its parishioners without a place to worship, witnesses said.
As the church was razed to the ground, authorities beat dozens of parishioners in the street, pushing them to the ground and twisting their hands before arresting about 40 of them, including the church’s pastor and the church’s vice director, witnesses told ChinaAid.
Of those arrested, eight remain in custody, according to ChinaAid.
Police also searched the belongings of the church members and construction workers, witnesses said. They smashed offering boxes and confiscated phones, laptops, jewelry, cash and other personal property, according to ChinaAid.
— China Aid (@chinaaid) June 5, 2017
The Chinese Communist Party, the founding and ruling political party of modern China, allegedly ordered the church’s demolition after deeming it an “illegal structure,” ChinaAid said.
The Chinese government also said the demolition was punishment for failing to pay the yearly 4,000 yuan ($588) as part of an arbitrary “road usage fee” imposed by villagers who allegedly envy the church’s wealth, according to ChinaAid
“The church requests that the government adequately punish the leaders of those who have acted out violently against them and immediately release the detained Christians,” the organization said. “ChinaAid exposes the abuses experienced by Shuangmiao Christian Church members in order to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.”
China ranks no. 39 on Open Doors USA‘s World Watch List 2017, which ranks the top 50 countries in the world where Christians are persecuted for their faith.