A huge church purportedly built with nearly £2 million raised from local worshippers in one of China's poorest regions has been demolished by authorities, the latest flashpoint between religious groups and the officially atheist Communist Party.
This screen grab shows footage of the demolition of the Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen city in northern Shanxi Province on January 9.
ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building following, constructed with almost $2.6m (£1.9m) in contributions from local worshippers in one of China's poorest regions.
The government revised laws regulating religious groups a year ago for the first time since 2005, increasing control over a places of worship from limiting the construction of statutes outside churches to imposing fines of up to 300,000 yuan (£34,000) for holding "unauthorised religious activities".
In an earlier crackdown in 2009, squads of the Chinese regime's security goons descended on the church to smash the building and seize bibles from its members, according to ChinaAid.
A local pastor at a nearby church, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he saw large numbers of paramilitary police on Tuesday blanketing the area around the church, which was being taken apart by heavy machinery.
A Catholic church in the neighbouring province of Shaanxi was also reportedly demolished last month, 20 years after it originally opened.
"This indicates that the order to destroy the church came from China's top officials instead of the less-powerful local authorities", the statement read.
Several of the church's leaders, including the pastors and their relatives, were arrested.
Global Times, a state newspaper, described the building's destruction as part of a "citywide campaign to remove illegal buildings", and quoted an unidentified official as saying that the church had been "secretly" constructed without proper permits and was initially disguised as a warehouse.
After learning of the beatings, Yang "Esther" Xue, the daughter of two of the church's pastors, tried to contact her parents at their home, but no one answered.
It is not Golden Lampstand's first clash with officials.
She told a ChinaAid reporter: "The police surrounded the Golden Lampstand Church". Patrol wagons guarded the church. Workers smashed the church's glass. The village head and the police from the local police station warned all the believers against entering the church.
"The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights", said ChinaAid president and founder Bob Fu.
While authorities did not block the church's construction, they later cracked down on it, and the couple and other church leaders were sent to prison.