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Last Updated: Friday, 22 December 2006, 06:57 GMT
Chinese Christians in riot trial
By James Reynolds
BBC News, Beijing

Chinese protestants in Qinghai
All churches must be registered and sanctioned by the state
Eight Chinese Christians are going on trial in the eastern city of Hangzhou charged with instigating violence and interfering with the law.

The charges relate to an incident in the village of Che Lu Wan in July.

There were violent clashes when riot police moved in to demolish a church being built without official approval.

All churches must be registered and sanctioned by the state but millions of Chinese Christians worship in unofficial or underground churches.

'Wider crackdown'

Local Christians had been trying to get permission from the authorities to build the new church.

But they got tired of all the delays involved and decided to go ahead anyway, without official approval.

Hundreds began construction work. Then, a few days later, riot police were sent in to demolish the church. There were violent clashes between the two sides.

Now, as a result, eight Christians involved - seven men and one woman - are standing trial.

One of their lawyers has told the BBC that if convicted, they will face at least three years in jail.

International human rights organisations say that this case is part of a wider crackdown on independent Christianity in China.

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