A cold wind blows in China this Christmas

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It has been six weeks since worshippers at Beijing's Shouwang House Church were abruptly shunted out of their long-time home in a nondescript low-rise building.

A week after their landlord succumbed to pressure from authorities and turfed them on to the street, more than 500 church members gathered outside the east gate of Haidian Park.

The icy winds that blew at their faces had also dumped the earliest and biggest snowfalls over two weeks since records began in 1949.

Authorities quickly erected an iron gate at the park's entrance, forcing churchgoers to meet wherever they could find suitable premises. On the eve of Christmas, China's Christians are once again under attack.

The latest trouble began in September when about 400 people attacked Christians attending the Golden Lamp, which had been built on the outskirts of the town of Lifen in central Shanxi province. About 70 church members were hospitalised. Later that month more than a dozen church leaders were arrested and paramilitary forces occupied the church, an eight-story edifice that had been constructed to serve a congregation of 50,000.

Their early Christmas present: in early December five pastors were sentenced to prison terms of up to seven years on charges including illegal assembly and five more were sentenced to two years in a labour camp.

There was another string of incidents in early November.

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