On the morning of November 22, Zion Church—a government-approved Protestant Three-Self church in Luoyang city—was forcibly demolished by the local government. This demolition followed repeated threats against the church and its believers, and repeated physical assaults on the building.
The attacks on Zion Church, located in Luoyang city in central China’s Henan Province, began in October, ostensibly because the authorities wanted to reconstruct Zhujiang Road, on which the church sits.
In late October, the director of the Zhujiang Road Sub-district Office issued a “Notice of Demolition with Deadline” to the church. The director said that the authorities were going to demolish the church as part of the road reconstruction. The church’s leader was instructed to sign the notice, but she adamantly refused to sign it.
Over the course of the month following the issuance of this decree, the authorities took steps to damage and destroy the church building and furnishings.
According to one church member, “Shortly past 7 a.m. on October 25, more than 100 people—including the local police station officers, urban management officers, as well as some thugs—arrived at Zion Church in many vehicles, and there were two trucks as well. First, they used professional tools to pry open the door and enter. Then, they cut off the church’s water and electricity supply. In addition, they also put sealing tape on all of the tables, chairs and Bibles in the church, and moved them away.”
One elderly Christian angrily rebuked these law enforcement officials for breaking the law themselves. The official in charge took offense to this accusation, and replied: “Who do you expect to explain the law to you? The Communist Party is the greatest now.”
The next day, members of the church repaired the church’s gate, and also bought a large lock and locked the church’s gate to prevent further raids by the authorities. Unfortunately, the attacks on the building were just beginning.
About two weeks later, authorities returned to Zion Church to continue their destructive behavior. A church member reported that at 7 p.m. on November 12, there were only two elderly believers in their seventies guarding the building. The secretary of the Zhujiang Road Sub-district Office, accompanied by about 30 personnel, arrived at Zion Church. Carrying shovels, sledgehammers and other tools, they pried off the lock that church members had placed on the gate. They stormed into the church and pried open the four iron doors inside the church.
When she heard about this second attack on Zion, the church’s leader rushed to the scene. The sub-district office secretary threatened her, saying that if she kept obstructing, then all the believers would be arrested. The secretary then instructed his subordinates, saying: “Whatever ought to be smashed, smash it! Whatever ought to be demolished, demolish it!” In a matter of minutes, all of the church’s windows had been removed or shattered to pieces.
Recalling the scene that evening, one elderly Christian said: “They (the authorities) keep talking about promoting a harmonious society and national unity, but this is how they treat us, the common people. When will we ever achieve social harmony?”
According to those interviewed, the local Christian “Two Councils” (the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the China Christian Council) ordered Zion Church to choose a new site for their meeting venue. The Two Councils, however, imposed conditions: the new site must have a fire exit; it must not be set up near a school or a security service office; it must not be built near a residential area, because such a location could cause a disturbance; and similar restrictions.
To church members, these conditions were a deliberate attempt to make things difficult, and they put the believers in a tough predicament. “In such a bustling place like Luoyang city, we simply cannot find a meeting venue that meets their stated conditions,” according to one male believer.
Zion Church was the center of a Christian community, and defending it was a labor of love for the believers. It was built in 2009, at a cost of more than 900,000 RMB (about 130,763 USD) donated by the believers. The church covered an area of approximately 600 square meters, and was able to accommodate gatherings of more than 300 people.
On the morning of November 22, the month-long ordeal of this community of believers came to an end. The church that the believers had resolutely defended was destroyed by the authorities, leaving only a pile of rubble in its wake.
Reported by Jiang Tao