Sixteen nuns, who were defending a church building from attacks, were severely wounded when 40 uniformed young men armed with sticks raided the church and beat them.
The U.S.-based China Aid Association, citing "reliable sources," said the young men rushed into a Xi'an City church Nov. 22 at about 6 p.m. Two hours later, a bulldozer started tearing down the church.
China Aid said officials from the government's religious affairs bureau came to the site, and the destruction was halted until the next evening.
The nuns suffered severe wounds, including eye injuries and broken legs. Four remain in hospital.
China Aid described the attackers as "government-hired gangsters."
Nonprofit organizations have repeatedly documented attacks against Catholic and Protestant churches in China that are not officially registered with the government.