The Chinese government has launched a campaign to shut down and destroy nearly 500 Christian, Buddhist and Taoist places of worship in the eastern province of Zhejiang. The authorities announced the clampdown two weeks ago. They are targeting religious groups that have been deemed illegal. These include mainstream Catholic and Protestant churches and several traditional temples belonging to indigenous religious groups. Up to last Sunday, 239 religious buildings have been closed down and another 210 were destroyed in the district of Ouhai. The area is part of the diocese of Wenzhou, where there has been a strong Catholic community for more than 100 years. A government spokesman said: "underground churches and temples have been destroyed to maintain social stability, because certain organisations fool the people with a religious pretence". Over the last two years, authorities in Wenzhou have stepped up controls on the underground Catholic Church, faithful to Pope John Paul II. However, the government does not officially recognise the Catholic church or any other foreign Christian churches and has begun encouraging Christians to join the State-run Patriotic church. Many priests and pastors have been forced to live underground for fear of arrest.
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