(Independent) – Chinese authorities have demolished a well-known Christian megachurch, inflaming long-standing tensions between religious groups and the Communist Party. Witnesses and overseas activists said the paramilitary People’s Armed Police used dynamite and excavators to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, which has a congregation of more than 50,000, in the city of Linfen in Shanxi province. ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an

underground worship hall to demolish the building following, constructed with nearly $2.6m (£1.9m) in contributions from local worshippers in one of China’s poorest regions. The church had faced “repeated persecution” by the Chinese government, said ChinaAid. Hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the building and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009 that ended with the arrest of church leaders. READ MORE

The Independent is a British online newspaper. Established in 1986 as a politically independent national morning newspaper published in London, it was controlled by Tony O’Reilly’s Independent News & Media from 1997 until it was sold to Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev in 2010.