Hundreds of Protestant Christians battled the police in the city of Xian on Sunday in an attempt to stop the sale of their church, one of the oldest and largest in the former imperial capital.
    According to the Hong Kong based Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, about 500 Christians occupied the church building hoisting banners and shouting slogans such as "The church belongs to the people."
    Police denied the incident ever happened; an employee of the state-controlled Protestant Patriotic Association said the church was occupied, but only by a handful of people. He also said that discussion about the sale of the church has been going on for almost a year and that the demonstration was "an excuse to engage in illegal activity and play on the feelings of believers."
    Fearing the demonstration would degenerate -- in view of approaching significant dates such as the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic -- police dispersed the crowds on Sunday afternoon.
    Catholic World News 2:05pm 27/5/99


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