Hundreds of worshippers at a newly built church in China's Zhejiang province have launched a vigil campaign to save their building and its huge cross from being demolished by the local government.
Sanjiang church is located in the city of Wenzhou, which is home to one of China's largest Christian communities.
The churchgoers gathered to defend the church Monday, staying overnight and well into Tuesday after authorities said the government-approved Protestant church had illegal structures and additions that violated building codes.
But a church member who wished to be identified only as Brother Wen said in an interview with VOA's Mandarin service that the demolition order is illegal.
“We resolutely oppose the government's actions to demolish the cross and to demolish the church because the demolition doesn't have documents from the central government, Zhejiang province, or anything. The demolition is relying on someone's word. It has no legal basis. We are resolutely defending the church's legitimate rights, and will not allow the government to take such uncivilized actions," said Brother Wen.
The worshippers conducted a similar protest about two weeks ago, forcing the local government to reach a tentative agreement to save the main church building. Officials in Wenzhou have not commented on the latest standoff.
A church member who identified himself as Brother Jin said protecting the church's large cross is the highest priority.
“Right now, no matter what, we must protect the church and the cross. The cross is the baseline of Christianity and our church;it is also a symbol of our faith," said Brother Jin.
Police set up roadblocks at the scene and uniformed police and plainclothes security agents were present, according to several church members. There have been no reports of authorities trying for forcibly remove the protesters.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.