The $5 million Sanjiang Church, dominating the city skyline with soaring spires, high ceilings and stained glass and finished in 2013 after six years of construction, was four times the size building permits allowed, officials said. Activists, though, say the demolition was part of a campaign against Christians throughout Zhejiang province, and claim a dozen more churches in the area face demolition.
The demolition ended a month-long standoff between parishioners and authorities.
“You have no idea how hard it was for us to build that church,” said parishioner Yu Xinwei. The construction came after a twelve-year campaign to fund the church, and donations came from all over the world.
ChinaAid, an organization focused on persecution of Christians and based in Texas, said the church was brought down after comments by a Communist Party provincial secretary, Xia Baolong, who complained crosses atop steeples were “too conspicuous and too flashy.”
Although religion is closely regulated in China, Wenzhou is nicknamed “China’s Jerusalem.” Renmin University anthropologist Cao Nanlai said, “Wenzhou people are very well-known for their entrepreneurial spirit, and they express their Christianity through real estate. There have been other churches demolished but this one is the largest.”