China's Christians Resist Church Demolition

July 31, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: July 31, 2006 12:00 am

BEIJING – Christian residents in Communist China's eastern Zhejiang province clashed with police after authorities sought to demolish a church they said was unlawful, a human rights group and police said on Monday.

Xiaoshan, a booming industrial suburb of the province capital Hangzhou, is home to many hundreds of Protestant Christians who reject state administration of religion.

In recent years, they have waged struggles with government authorities over building churches, said the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, a Hong Kong-based group.

On Saturday, Christian residents there clashed with police seeking to enforce the demolition of a church, it reported.

A police officer declined to give details, but confirmed there was a clash with Christians.

“They violated the laws on land use and administration,” said the police officer in Dangshan town, where the clash occurred.

“They occupied the land to build a church,” he said. The officer refused to elaborate on the scale of the conflict.

An official newspaper, the Hangzhou Daily, reported on Sunday that an “illegal building” in Cheluwan Village in Dangshan was “forcefully demolished” on Saturday.

“A tiny handful of people with ulterior motives incited members of the public who did not know the facts,” the paper said. It said the lawbreakers had partially constructed a building, but did not specify its purpose. Nor did it say if any arrests were made.

China's ruling Communist Party is atheist but tolerates religions that accept the state as its head. But many of China's millions of Christians reject government oversight.