19 April 2014

Concern rises in Wenzhou as Christianity booms in capitalist fashion

Freshly daubed in red paint on the left façade of Sanjiang Church in Yongjia county, Wenzhou, in China's eastern Zhejiang Province, is a large Chinese character chai, meaning "to demolish." A symbol of China's rapid urbanization in the past three decades, the same character has been painted on the walls of old neighborhoods, factory buildings and illegal structures all over China before they made way for new high-rises, highways and commercial complexes. But a province-wide controversy was triggered when the same fate befell the brand new Protestant church early this April, in a city where the large Christian population, about 15 percent of a total of 9 million, has provided the nickname "China's Jerusalem." The local government has ordered the gigantic church, rising over 50 meters from a stretch of farmland, and one-storey houses to be dismantled. Construction of the Gothic-style church, with its pointed arches, ornate façade, high spire and pinnacles, has already cost more than 20 million yuan ($3.2 million) over three years and is still ongoing.