08/21/2014, 00.00
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Churches and crosses demolished: lawyers challenge Zhejiang government in defense of religious freedom

The faithful of the Salvation Church in Pingyang (Wenzhou) were violently harassed by police and thugs in an attempt to defend the cross of their church. Lawyers say this violates the Chinese Constitution. The government of Wenzhou defends itself: only a tiny fraction of the buildings were destroyed churches. But Protestant pastors accuse it of persecution.

Wenzhou (AsiaNews / CHRD) - A group of 14 lawyers has released a legal opinion about the violent harassment of members of the Salvation Church in Zhejiang and is about to challenge the government with a lawsuit. July 21, hundreds of police and thugs arrived in Pingyang County (Wenzhou) to remove the cross on top of the sacred building.

The faithful who had turned out en mass to stop them, clashed with police. Many community members were injured, but managed to delay the removal of the cross. Some of the faithful, Huang Heming, Li Qianbo, Xie Zuozhi, Wu Quanquan, Zhang Zhimin and  Zhao Hongjin drafted a complaint in an attempt to stop the demolition of the cross, which was pulled down on 18 August.

In the document, the lawyers who have taken up their defense, state that the local government has violated the Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution which protects freedom of religion. In addition, they claim that a myriad of Chinese laws were broken when Wenzhou authorities dispatched thugs and police who in turn attacked church members, including "causing intentional injury," "disturbing social order," and "abuse of power."

The lawyers have called on the Pingyang County Public Security Bureau and People's Procuratorate to investigate.

The reference to the violated Constitution is almost a word for word quote of President Xi Jinping who at the time of taking power, more than a year ago, said that all Party members must be subject to the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the government of Zhejiang, has come under intense criticism for his campaign the "Rectify Three, Demolish One" , which has destroyed churches and crosses. In recent days it rallied its defense by claiming that its primary objective is not the destruction of religious buildings, but urban renewal, by removing illegal constructions.

Out of 225 million square meters of destruction, 130 hectares of religious buildings were levelled. However many Protestant pastors, state that in their neighbourhood, "strangely" only the church was demolished, leaving other illegal buildings intact. In addition, some have pointed out that the police sought to broker deals, "we let you stay if you promise not to have any more religious meetings".



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