Chinese police broke up a peaceful demonstration on July 29 by several thousand Christians who watched them demolish an independent church's building.

According to eyewitnesses, police used electric stun batons to beat the Christians in Dangshan township, Xiaoshan, a Hangzhou suburb.

After being forced from its previous location, Dangshan Church was nearly completely rebuilt on land owned by a local Christian couple. Sources in both the local government and the church confirmed to the U.S.-based China Aid Association (CAA) that local authorities had repeatedly denied believers' requests to rebuild the church, even though they had met all the registration requirements.

It is the second time in three years that local authorities have destroyed the church, according to CAA. The organization reported that the government had ordered church leaders to cease rebuilding because officials planned to use the land for other purposes. Government officials rejected church leaders' suggestions for where it might be relocated and ordered that it be rebuilt on a site stuck between three highways heavy with truck traffic. At that point the pastors doubted the government's sincerity and resumed the building project, according to CAA.

The case has attracted global attention. The BBC reported July 31 that up to 500 police broke up a protest by 3,000 Christians. According to the Hong Kong–based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, 20 of the protesters were hurt, 4 seriously. Five organizers of the protest were arrested. CAA also said police arrested journalist Zan Aizong, a recent Christian convert who lost his job for reporting on the church destruction. Zan was later released.

A local police official told Agence France-Presse ...

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