The following report is an eyewitness account of a "passion": a minute by minute dramatic telling of the destruction of the Tudusha evangelical community church. Its destruction is yet another sign of Beijing's unreasonable polices on religious worship, which permit believers to gather only in state-approved locales. What is most striking about the story is that there were policemen, drivers, and people passing all openly against the government order. It is also striking that those who reported the activities of the underground church were "leaders of the Three-Self Churches", that is, of the state-recognized Protestant churches. Often these leaders are members of the Patriotic Association, in other words, atheist members of the church who are sent by the Communist Party to cause division within the community.
The report comes from the Jan. 2004 issue of The voice of the Martyrs, a monthly published by evangelical Christians in Canada, who also have video footage of the violent episode. The delay in which such accounts are made public is due to the fact that destroying churches has now become a "state secret", news forbidden to release abroad.
Therefore much time has passed before the news could be reported outside of China. Meanwhile in Zhejiang two Protestants, Liu Fenggang and Xu Yonghai, have been imprisoned for releasing information about churches destroyed in this region. According to the Hong Kong Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy at least 10 house churches have been destroyed by police units in Zhejiang since July 2003, bringing the total now to 392 churches and temples destroyed or reused as "entertainment centers".
The photo used in the article is from live footage as the church is being knocked down. - BC
June 26, 2003: The name of this church is Tu Du Sha Church in the Xiaoshan District of Hangzhou City, in the province of Zhejiang.
The church community was started around 1930 by Hudson Taylor's group, China Inland Mission (*).
The church has over 70 years of history and counts 1,500 members as part of its weekly congregation.
Upon hearing the government's intention to destroy the church, the brothers and sisters proclaimed a three-day fast.
On the evening of June 25, 200 brothers and sisters went to the church to pray. At midnight, approximately 100 additional brothers and sisters came from neighboring house churches to support their efforts.
Around 3:40 am, June 26, 100 people from the PSB, People Procurators, People's Court, Land Management Bureau and Religious Affairs Bureau arrived at the church with 27 trucks, several cars and two bulldozers. The government officials thought that, at such an early hour, no one would be at the church and they could destroy it unnoticed.
To their surprise they came upon 300 believers, from a very young to a very old age, all kneeling on the floor of the sanctuary praying.
Believers shut off the electricity to o keep the church from being destroyed . Yet government officials decided to call in reinforcements and told believers they would return around 8:00 am.
At 7:32 am a large group of government authorites arrived with over 200 military policemen accompanying them and more than 40 trucks, several cars, one bulldozer and one ambulance .
After realizing the government's intention to destroy the church, the driver (of the now missing bulldoze)r refused to earn money in this manner, as he did not return with them to demolish the building.
The destruction of the church was well organized by the government. First they used police cars to control traffic around the church. No one was allowed to enter from the outside. Then police dragged all the bicycles parked outside the sanctuary to a distant location.
Next they knocked down the doors to the sanctuary and asked the people inside to come out. No one moved inside the church as faithful continued to sing hymns.
The police were then ordered to drag them outside the building. However, some officers were reluctant to force them to leave. The Christians inside were praying as they normally do, kneeling on a small prayer pad.
Police units them knocked them down and dragged them across the floor on their prayer pads. Yet some military police did not want to drag away the innocent church members.
One policeman picked up a prayer pad, which was dirty from being dragged, and dusted it off and gave it back to the believer. But police had follow orders in the end.
Some jumped among the churchgoers and pulled their chairs out from under them while elievers hung desperately onto their seats. As believers and policemen struggled over the chairs, many of the faithful were badly injured .
Then one sister with a small baby was pulled away by police, as she began crying loudly, "Jesus, Save Us. Lord, your throne is everlasting." The ordeal lasted about a half hour.
Many who were dragged out tried to re-enter, thwarting police efforts. While trying to remove believers from the church premises, military officials assigned four police officers per believer, ordering them to drag faithful out by their arms and legs.
Then military police became very angry and began throwing believers around like luggage into nearby ditches. Many were handcuffed and tossed into police cars. Still others were wounded-this lasting for about 1 hour as their clothes were torn and dirtied during the struggle and while others were rendered unconscious.
Still others (about 40 sisters) gathered in a corner of the church - joining hands, singing and witnessing to their captors/persecutors.
An elder sister was carried out on a policeman's shoulder, while telling him of the evil state of his soul and need for Jesus.
Then some military policeman began crying. After yet another hour, all the Christians inside were driven out of the sanctuary. During the whole event two sisters' ribs were broken and another sister's spinal column was fractured. One brother had a stone lodged under his skin, requiring an operation to remove it. All together six Christians were wounded and sent to the hospital.
Some of the wounded refused hospital treatment, fearing possible incarceration. A total of five believers were arrested.
After 1 hour and 22 minutes, at around 8:50 a.m., the bulldozer began demolishing the church.
The church was destroyed in threephases: first the kitchen (at the front of the building), then main sanctuary, and finally its main storage facility.
During its destruction, many believers were crying and singing hymns. When the church wa s finally reduced to rubble believers felt like the body of Christ was stricken and broken, in many ways symbolizing the experience of the Chinese church over the last 50 years.
Around 9:30 all the government authorites withdrew, after completing the church's destruction.
Soon afterwards, 70 to 80 believers gathered atop the rubble to sing Psalms 137 & 123 and offer up prayers. They knew it must be God's good will, that He has seen all this occur.
Many non-believers watching this destruction wept, including some of the soldiesr as their shirts and clothing were soaking wet with tears. Some of them were possibly sons and relatives of Christian families.
Two Sundays after the church was demolished brothers and sisters continued to have their services on the pile of rubble, even during the wettest season in 50 years (400C).
Afterward undaunted believers decided to put put up a tent to gather for worship and prayer. Every Sunday after early morning prayer they erected the tent, and took it down after evening service.
Church members followed this procedure for 11 weeks. Because of the extreme humidity, wind and poor weather conditions it became difficult for them to procced in this manner. In the end they decided to rebuild a simple sanctuary.
On September 11, around 11 p.m., they began rebuilding the church, but then some Three-Self Church (TSPM) members called the government, which resulted in the church's electricity being cut-off. Some believers were prepared and had acquired generators.
The church was destroyed yet another time. On the morning of September 18 the government again destroyed the church and confiscated all items found in the church, including the chairs and pulpit.
They came with five big trucks to create a barricade of large stones to block the church's entrance, hoping to keep believers from trying to rebuild the church again.
The government declared it was determined not to let Christians continue to gather at this church. One government official said, "Originally we were not planning to destroy this church, but we did so because the leadership of the Three-Self Churches (TSPM) called 18 times in one evening, urging us to destroy this simple sanctuary."
(Article taken from The Voice of the Martyrs, January 2004 issue)
(*) J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) was an English missionary in China and founder of China Inland Mission, an inter-faith organization carrying out missionary activities in China. At the time of his death there were 250 missions with over 800 missionaries working throughout the country. In various phases many communities founded by him and his missionaries have survived, despite the persecutions which continue to plague Chinese Christians even today.
Watch Tu Du Sha Church being destroyed